Azimut Benetti maintains ‘active’ interest in opportunities in Malta
Italian boat-builder Azimut Benetti is still “actively” interested in investment opportunities in Malta that would enable it to realise a project running into several million euros, according to its local dealership Esprit Yachting.
Following its unsuccessful €15 million bid for the Manoel Island Yacht Yard tender some years ago in partnership with local investors, Azimut Benetti’s owner Paolo Vitelli would willingly consider channeling up to €25 million in a project for a marina and a refit operation, Pierre and Niki Travers Tauss told The Times Business.
“Azimut Benetti views Malta’s ideal location and attractive set of resources favourably as it would enable it to service international customers and boat owners,” Esprit Yachting chief executive Pierre Travers Tauss explained. “Crews would willingly ‘winter’ here and there would be a considerable spillover effect for the local economy.”
Established 40 years ago, the Azimut Benetti Group, one of Europe’s foremost builders, remains a privately-held family business with Dr Vitelli as the sole shareholder. Its portfolio includes the Atlantis brand of sporty open boats of between 10 and 18 metres, the Azimut Yachts flybridge fleet, the 100-feet plus Azimut Grande collection, and the Benetti range of vessels measuring 24 to 100 metres. Azimut acquired the brand, originally set up in 1873, in 1984.
The group has consistently caught the attention of the international nautical circuit with its enviable financials. Over the past 15 years, its average annual rate of growth of production value, currently standing at €600 million, has come in at 15 per cent. It prides itself on being entirely debt-free, possessing €300 million in net assets, and having channelled more than €500 million in investment over the past 10 years.
Azimut Benetti reaches across the world through a network of dealers in 170 countries. Earlier this year, Dr Vitelli announced plans to broaden the fleet with more than 30 new models across its portfolio over the next three years.
The Travers Tauss family, which has been operating in the local industry for more than 20 years, is currently preparing for the sixth annual Bank of Valletta Boat Show which kicks off at Senglea’s Boilers Wharf next Thursday.
Managing director Niki Travers Tauss said that after a “quiet” 2011, interest in boat purchase has gathered a modest pace this year and the boat show will be a major opportunity to gauge customer sentiment.
The family’s two operations, Esprit Yachting and Strand Marine, will have a considerable presence at the boat show, where they will be joined by Portomaso-based Boat Care with whom a sub-dealership agreement was signed recently.
Three Atlantis models – the 35, 38, and 48 – and the Azimut 48 and 58 Flybridge will be on show. Strand Marine has partnered Zarb Stores to retail Suzuki outboards and dinghies. The companies will also present Suzumar dinghies and the Ocean Master range at the show.
Esprit Yachting’s association with the Azimut Benetti Group began in late 2005 when the Travers Tauss family was seeking a European brand to complement Strand Marine’s US-made Larson portfolio featuring boats under 30 feet. A relationship was fostered with the group, and after 18 months, Esprit Yachting was established to position the Atlantis and Azimut brands more effectively.
Father and son say that despite the economic climate, the brands have been well received locally.
“The Maltese boating community always had an affinity with the British brands, mostly for cultural reasons,” Pierre Travers Tauss explained. “In previous years, Azimut was represented in Malta through a sub-dealership. The Roman dealer was responsible for the territory at the time. We put in a proposal with the group mostly focused on after-sales service and we organised a launch at Portomaso with some partners to launch the brand here. It was a huge success.”
Esprit Yachting held a similar event in 2009 at the Excelsior Hotel which hosted the world premiere of the Atlantis 54. Last year, the Atlantis 48 took centre stage at the opening night of the boat show.