YARD UPDATE '08: Azimut-Benetti

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'Value of production' around €840 million for ‘06/07 and more to come; investments totalling €220 million over the next three years; major model-development programme; new market niches...

FEBRUARY 2008

Now the world’s fourth-largest and the largest privately owned boatbuilding operation, Azimut-Benetti did well during its ‘06/07 financial year. Its ‘value of production’ for the period was €840 million, so up 20 per cent from the €701 million of the previous year. Of that around 60 per cent came from Azimut Yachts division.
“And yes we’ll see yet more growth in this current financial year, probably another 15-plus per cent,” says a very confident and still very bullish president and major shareholder Paolo Vitelli. “Our ‘order-book’ value is now around €1.5 billion!”
Majority owned by president Paolo Vitelli, Azimut-Benetti’s substantial interests now comprise four core businesses – Azimut Yachts, Benetti and Atlantis boatbuilding operations, as well as its yacht brokerage and management firm Fraser Yachts, which it acquired a few years ago. The beyond those core business blocks, the group has a variety of marina investments managed via its Azimut Capital division. For instance, it already has marinas in Viareggio and Varazze, which is halfway between Genoa and Monaco, and work is soon to begin on a major marina development as part of the long-term development of its Livorno site. Plus it has recently acquired a marina project on a key lake in Moscow, a move intended to ensure it has the ability to sell boats with prime berthing.

'From 2004-2007 Azimut-Benetti has invested around €150 million. And it has earmarked around €220 million to be spent over the three years from 2008-2010...' 


Its investment programme is relentless in all areas. From 2004-2007 Azimut-Benetti has invested around €150 million. And it has earmarked around €220 million to be spent over the three years from 2008-2010. The money – all cash, no borrowings – be spent on plant expansions, new models and research and development.
On the plant development side, the group plans to expand the amount of production space it has by around 30 per cent over the next three years – an amazingly confident plan. At themoment it has around 452,000 square-metres of site space, 195,000 square-metres of which is covered area, but within three years that will have increased to 611,000 square-metres, of which 258,000 square-metres will be covered.
In Viareggio it is in the process of doubling the amount of space it has there. Then it will continue to add infrastructure to its massive Benetti site in Livorno. In Fano it will expand its moulding operations, which produces all the lamination work for the composite Benettis, and the fitting-out operations there that handle the Legend and Tradition navettas are also being boosted. And the Azimut operations in Avigliana are being augmented by another site next door to its main facility. It will allow several new halls to be added. Similarly major expansions are also in hand at the group’s Atlantis operations in Sariano di Gropparello, near Piacenza.
It also recently announced that it had started building some smaller boats with a joint-venture partner in Turkey.
Overall the Azimut-Benetti group now employs around 2,500 people directly, but like most Italian builders it also uses several thousand subcontracts too. Certainly its employee count is growing slower than its turnover, which indicates improved efficiencies. In ‘06/07 it claims to have invested in around 70,000 hours of training.
In all Azimut-Benetti currently supports getting on for 40 ‘models’ across just three brands. The Azimut range now extends over no fewer than 19 models from 11.9-35.4m (39-116ft) and includes two distinct ranges – the Azimut-branded flybridge models and the 13-31.4m (43-103ft) Azimut S open/hardtop express cruisers. Its Benetti line-up runs from 24-70m (80-230ft) – which includes five composite semi-custom designs fro 24-45m (80-148ft) and several semi-custom technical platforms for steel/aluminium and all-aluminium designs in the 50-70m (164-230ft) sector. And of course Atlantis sports nine models from 9.5-16.8m (31-55ft).

'“At the moment,” says Paolo Vitelli, “we address around 75 per cent of the world power market. That leaves 25 per cent that we’re not addressing… So for the future we will be widening our net...'

On the model development front we can also expect to see considerable investment. In all it plans around 25 new-model launches over the next three years. Those will be a mix of replacement models and new additions in existing ranges and a few completely new ranges.
“At the moment,” says Paolo Vitelli, “we address around 75 per cent of the world power market. That leaves 25 per cent that we’re not addressing… So for the future we will be widening our net… You can expect to see us introduce several new lines of product, so that we end up building products for more like 95 per cent of the market… We intend introducing ‘new classic’, ‘open performance’ and ‘sportsfishing’ models.”
And the group continues to invest heavily in what it terms its advanced research and development programmes. It has a team based in Varazze Marina offices that focus on those, Project include everything from fuel-cell research to new means of stabilization.
Across the board Azimut-Benetti is reinforcing its dominance in the superyacht sector. With its big Azimuts and Benetti operations combined, it rates as the world’s largest builder of yachts over 24.4m (80ft Amazingly that order book includes no fewer than 3,600m (11,800ft) worth of yachts in excess of 24m (80ft), which equates to around 100 units!
As for unit production in ‘06/07, the group did a bit more than the previous year – so, say, something like 580 boats in all – roughly 350 Azimuts, 215 Atlantis and 16 or so Benettis, of which 10 were composite motoryachts and six were ‘metal’ superyachts. As for this year the unit tally should grow by the same 10-15 per cent also.
Overall, Azimut-Benetti is now present in about 70 or so different countries and 140 sales offices. Roughly 49 per cent of all export orders hail from within the European market, 21 per cent comes from the North America, 16 per cent from Latin America, ten per cent from the Far East/Australasia and four per cent from the Middle East.

© Phil Draper