New Chinese owner for Sunseeker

Sunseeker - about to Chinese-owned
UK boatbuilder Sunseeker is in talks with a prospective Chinese owner, Chinese property firm Dalian Wanda, in a deal worth US$471m. Subject to regulatory approval, the purchase is imminent. 'We are buying the best yacht company in the UK,' Wang Jianlin, chairman of Beijing-based Dalian Wanda, was quoted as saying. If the deal is concluded, new investment will be forthcoming from the existing management and founder Robert Braithwaite.

Stewart McIntyre, Sunseeker’s CEO, said, 'The discussions are ongoing and I cannot add any more. If they are successful it will not be a matter of months before reaching an outcome. Nothing will change. The current management team will remain including founder Robert Braithwaite. That was a pre-requisite for the talks going ahead.'

McIntyre declined to comment on reports that the possible purchaser is the Chinese group Dalian Wanda, the same company that McIntyre told IBI a few weeks ago was buying into Sunseeker China, one of the two Chinese mainland distributors of Sunseekers. On the prospect that these talks might draw other potential buyers, McIntyre said: 'We will not be talking with anyone else.'

Gordon Hui of Hong Kong-based Sunseeker Asia, one of the top Sunseeker dealers in the world, pointed out that 'This is a great step. I am delighted. The company is going to benefit from a huge boost in R&D. Wang Jianlin is himself a Sunseeker owner.'

The Sunseeker statement confirmed: 'Sunseeker will remain a British company, headquartered in Poole, Dorset and will maintain its existing primary production bases in the UK, along with its current workforce and infrastructure. The existing management team and representatives of FL Partners will remain on the Sunseeker Boards, and founder Robert Braithwaite will continue to be involved in the business and remain as Group President.

'The new majority shareholder, who has no current interest in the luxury motor yacht sector, supports Sunseeker's commitment to superior products and its premium brand, both of which would be further enhanced by its investment,' Sunseeker said.

'If a deal is concluded, it will be fantastic news for the business, the wider Sunseeker 'family' and the motor yacht industry and will allow Sunseeker to expand its global base still further while retaining its current operational and manufacturing infrastructure at our headquarters in Poole.'

This isn't the first move by a big Chinese firm into the luxury yacht sector - in January 2012, the Ferretti Group was sold to Shandong Heavy Industry Group-Weichai Group in a deal worth around €178 million.