Chinese billionaire plans four new marinas

Sanya during the Volvo Ocean Race 2012
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A Chinese billionaire and property developer has grand plans for a lineup of new marinas around the coast of China, predicting a time when demand will far exceed supply.

Wang Dafu, founder of the Visun Group which built the Visun Royal Yacht Hotel, yacht club and marina in 2005 has already invested some US$130 million in this venture in the coastal town of Sanya on the tropical island of Hainan on China's southern coast, 400 miles southwest of Hong Kong. It has 216 berths and boasts 700 members.

A 66,000m² maintenance centre for yachts up to 80m is planned for the Nanshan area of the coastal city by 2015, while a new clubhouse at the Yacht Club is in the works.

Visun last month also signed a letter of intent with Shenzhen Airport Group to co-develop a yachting complex next to the Shenzhen international Airport, 15km inland from Hong Kong within the next two to five years.

'The Shenzhen project consists of a marina, a yacht maintenance and refit centre, an exhibition space with showrooms and will also include commercial opportunities for residences, hotels, shopping centers, and offices,' says Ronnie Wang of Marine Dragon Consulting, which analyses the Chinese marina market.

'It is going to take several years to realize this huge development, but it probably will become another successful marina complex like in Sanya because Shenzhen is a costal business hub rather than a resort city and has already developed a yachting culture thanks to its neighbour, Hong Kong,' he told Bloomberg.

Wang hopes to open another four yacht clubs within the next eight years. The first of these will be a 400-berth marina that is expected to open in Shenzhen by the end of this year, Bloomberg quoted Wang as saying. Clubs in Shanghai and Fujian will reportedly follow.

Wang is worth an estimated net-worth of US$1.2 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, gathering his fortune by building apartment complexes and hotel resorts in Hainan and Guangdong province. Housing demand has waned as China tries to reign in skyrocketing home prices, so Wang has turned his attention to yacht clubs as bets on China's new wealthy elite embracing Western yachting culture. Several Asia property developers have used marinas connecting to property development as a way to sell luxury homes at a higher premium.

'I'm very bullish on yachts and I have big dreams,' Wang said. 'I spend about 80 percent of my effort on yachts but only make about 20 percent of my money from this. However, in the future I expect this ratio to reverse.'