Wanda sails off with UK yacht maker Sunseeker

James Bond relies on them, and now the mainland firm is buying the maker of the luxury craft favoured by him as it sees a fit with its resorts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 3:53pm

The next time James Bond takes part in a boat chase it's quite possible a Chinese company will be supplying his transport.

Dalian Wanda Group is buying British luxury yacht maker Sunseeker International, whose vessels have featured in four Bond films, including Quantum of Solace.

Wanda's agreement to buy Sunseeker and a separate deal to build a commercial development in central London underscore Wanda's growing international profile and a surging mainland interest in the luxury yacht market.

Wanda will take 91.81 per cent of Sunseeker International, with the rest being held by management, in a total investment estimated at £320 million (HK$3.9 billion). The transaction is expected to close by mid-August.

"Acquiring Sunseeker deepens Wanda's international influence, and further enhances our position in the global luxury, entertainment and tourism market," said Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda. "It represents an important step forward for the overseas development of our business."

Last June, Wanda bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment for US$2.6 billion.

Wang said Wanda was building three tourism resorts in the coastal cities of Qingdao, Sanya and Dalian, and each facility would feature a yacht club.

The company's need for yachts in its coastal resorts, coupled with China's booming demand for top luxury items, are the key reasons for the Sunseeker buyout. Wang added that the company was also considering producing yachts locally by adding a Sunseeker production line in one of the three coastal cities to avoid the high tariff for imported yachts.

Sunseeker, founded in 1968, is the largest yacht maker in Britain with an annual capacity of 300 vessels. Its yachts are priced between £400,000 and £21 million.

Stewart McIntyre, managing director of Sunseeker, said the investment and support from Wanda would be instrumental in helping it to unlock the enormous potential of China's rapidly expanding luxury yacht market.

Several mainland companies are already planning to build steel-hulled super yachts to take advantage of tax incentives favouring locally made vessels. In China, the effective tax rate is over 40 per cent of the total purchase price for a foreign vessel, at least 10 per cent higher than for ones made in China.

Domestic players already making custom-made super yachts include Shanghai's Double Happiness, Sunbird in Hunan, Singapore's Raffles Yacht operating out of Shandong, and Hong Kong's Cheoy Lee, which has a shipyard in Guangdong.

Ferretti, the Italian luxury yacht maker favoured by Li Ka-shing and Italy's Fiat-owning Agnelli dynasty, is controlled by China's state-owned Shandong Heavy Industry Group. Ferretti said last year it was considering expanding in China to meet growing demand from the country's newly affluent.

Ferretti, which was taken over by Shandong Heavy in a €374 million (HK$3.9 billion) deal in January, owns eight brands including Ferretti Yachts, Pershing, Itama and Bertram.

China's yacht market is expected to be worth US$10 billion by 2020 - almost a third of the global total for 2010, according to one estimate.

Separately, Wanda said it had clinched a deal with British developer Green Property to build a commercial real estate project in central London. It said the project would include a five-star hotel, an office building and serviced apartments. The investment was valued at £700 million.

Wang also said the company plans to open more hotels in eight to 10 overseas cities over the next decade, and the next one would be in central New York.