Genoa - “Will we return to the Genoa Boat Show? Yes, if there is an agreement between our association, Nautica Italiana, and UCINA for our participation in these events.” Giovanna Vitelli, the new Vice President of Azimut-Benetti, announcing the end of year results, also made some remarks about the event over which the two yachting associations are opposed, with the government at the centre, tying its funding for the sector to a peace treaty between the two sides. A peace treaty that should be based on a commitment to organise two Italian yacht shows, of course at different times and probably of different sizes with an agreement to prevent reciprocal boycotting.
When will something more specific be announced?
“We have promised Undersecretary for Economic Development Ivan Scalfarotto not to make any statements about this matter. He will make the announcement when the time is right. We hope that it will be possible to come to an agreement.”
So tell us about your balance sheet and the market. How is Azimut-Benetti doing?
“The first three months of the new season, which starts in September in our sector, are also the months of the Boat Shows: we have participated in selling exhibitions, which are important events. Now, except for the Benetti brand, for which the sale of a large yacht could make a difference, and considering only the Azimut range (from 12m to 35m in length), we can count on an order portfolio of €202 million or 165 boats in terms of volume. Compared to the first quarter of 2015, such figures correspond to a 17% growth in value and 12% in volume. Considering that Azimut makes up half of our group, it is not a small thing.”
The Show Boat International magazine in Global Order Book 2017 confirms that you are the leading global producer of superyachts, followed by Ferretti Group and Sanlorenzo. Between the lines, one can also read that there is an increase in the average size of your boats: is this the result of your entry into the gigayacht segment?
“We are proud to see that the three largest producers in the world are Italian. In terms of Azimut-Benetti, our further satisfaction is in seeing that we have retained the leadership position for the seventeenth consecutive year, with a +15% “advantage” in terms of metres over the second ranked producer. And then, yes, the average length of our boats has also increased as a result of our entry into the gigayacht segment, which has always been served by Northern European shipyards.”
How many gigayachts have you built?
“The first, Lionheart, was delivered last April. We have built three other gigayacht hulls 100m long which are to be delivered in the next three years.”
Are you certain that there is interest at this large size? What investments have you made?
“There are signs of interest, intriguing negotiations. We are also pleased because it is a confirmation of Italy’s reliability and seriousness in a product segment that until now was exclusively served by Northern European shipyards. We invested in this challenge with new production facilities in Livorno, so that we can built two gigayachts at the same time, and with planned insertion of new specialised full-time workers.”
Speaking about Benetti? There are rumours going around about the sale of the brand. “Clearly people like to gossip. But it is groundless.”
Let’s talk about Azimut’s market. What is your positioning?
“Lengths are increasing. We sold four of the new 35m units and seven of the new 27 MT units, models that we have not yet launched, for a +15% increase in value sold in the over-72ft segment. But there is also interest in smaller boats, a segment in which we have sold one third more units than last year. The 40 Verve, for example, an outboard conceived for the U.S. market, was very well received, we sold the entire production and are now thinking of introducing it to the global market.”
Besides the U.S., what other areas are responding well to your offering?
“The Middle East, Europe and then Brazil, which has actually doubled. This is a sort of reward for our tenacity: we have always believed in it, we have opened production facilities there, we have held fast during these years of crisis to be in position for the recovery.”
How many models will you be launching for the coming season?
“Six in total. The two Grande 35 and 27 models, the 40 Verve, the new Azimut 50 Fly which we will soon introduce in Düsseldorf and the two new 60 Fly and the S7 which we will unveil in Cannes. That is, six models in addition to the 26 that are already on the market.”
Last year started out with encouraging signs. Then there was a slowdown: why?
“There was the Paris attack, BREXIT, and the coup in Turkey. Unfortunately our market has become very uncertain. We hope that there will not be any more shocks. The truth is that at this point the sector does not allow for us to make many predictions.”
Do you intend to acquire new companies?
“If we are talking about brands, we do not plan to go shopping: we have more than enough already. Growing our revenue by just one million when we are at 700 million is an enormous effort, much greater than analogous growth starting from a much lower point. But we do have many plans, and if the market allows it, I think that we will achieve them.”