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More billionaires, more superyachts by 2020, Says Sunseeker CEO

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 17:52
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It's been a tough start to 2016. Global markets are facing volatility across the board, and oil prices are reaching lows not seen for 12 years. It's not all bad, though, as Sunseeker Chief Executive Officer Phil Popham told Manus Cranny of Bloomberg Television.

[LONDON] It's been a tough start to 2016. Global markets are facing volatility across the board, and oil prices are reaching lows not seen for 12 years. It's not all bad, though, as Sunseeker Chief Executive Officer Phil Popham told Manus Cranny of Bloomberg Television. The company's superyachts have been featured in four James Bond films and will continue to be if the yacht maker keeps bucking the trend.

"Despite the global recession, the world is becoming a more affluent place," said Popham during the 2016 London Boat Show, noting Sunseeker's main client base, ultra-high-net-worth individuals. "There are more and more affluent people that desire these brands." The company's estimate is about 20 per cent growth in this client base between now and 2020.

At US$32 million, the new Sunseeker 131 yacht was the most expensive at this year's show, which ended Sunday. (Other models can top US$35 million after customization.) Named for its length, the yacht offers 131 feet of polished wood decks, pristine white leather sofas, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Its tri-deck structure features a lounge, separate dining area, and full galley on the main deck. Venture up a level and you'll find the sky lounge, cocktail bar, and access to the skydeck. It sleeps up to 12 in five decadent cabins and can reach up to 25 knots. Before the ribbon was even cut at its launch in London, five had been sold.

Now majority-owned by China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, Sunseeker has managed to stem the losses experienced by most luxury brands last year due to China's slowdown, thanks to a focus on the Asian consumer (like built-in karaoke rooms aboard its vessels, for example). During the show, Sunseeker International took more than US$19 million of orders in the first three days. In 2016 it plans to release at least two additional models. The Poole, UK-based company has also hired 225 new manufacturing staff, just the beginning, Sunseeker's CEO says, of more positive times ahead for the yacht maker. This growth contradicts trends in the sector, with rival brands Princess and Fairline announcing job cuts and restructuring last year.

Popham says that although these yachts aren't for everyone, those who do buy a Sunseeker know that it's "not an impulsive purchase." Sunseeker loves to focus on the bespoke and "works with customers for a long period of time to specify their boats," said the CEO. "It's not a short build process; it's a very detailed, emotional purchase-we work very, very closely with the owners and their families to build something unique for them." It's no wonder the likes of Roger Moore and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan can be listed as some of the many Sunseeker fans.

"People don't need yachts-they want yachts."

BLOOMBERG