Q: What are your immediate plans for the group?
A: First, we have opened Ferretti Group Asia Pacific in Hong Kong in order to further strengthen our presence in the Asian market. This initiative was welcomed both internally and externally. Some of our European employees have volunteered to work in the Hong Kong branch, and this is very positive for us, because they know our brands and products very well and they will guarantee the correct training to our Asian employees. Second, we will continue with our expansion plans in the US, which is bringing good results. Third, we will deal with Europe, which will continue to represent an important focus of our market, both for the wealth of this area, for the competent clientele and for the wonderful places where you can cruise with a boat. The Mediterranean is a unique spot – more and more American and Asian clients are starting to keep boats there.
Q: How will your experience in the reorganisation of Ferretti’s US branch help you in dealing with today’s Ferretti Group?
A: From a boating point of view, the US is the most difficult and challenging market in the world. Italian-made products are very much beloved there, but American clients are also extremely demanding. If you manage to make the clientele happy in the US, you have good chances to succeed in other parts of the world. It was an important ‘school’ for me and the experience I gained in the US will be very useful to me also in dealing with Asia. Here the market is very new, but Asian clients have the same passion for our products, Italy’s style and elegance, our culture and design.
Q: After Weichai’s takeover, how are Ferretti Group shares divided?
A: Weichai Group has taken a 75 per cent share of the Ferretti Group through an overall investment of $412m, including an increase in capital of $200m and the provision of new credit lines amounting to $212m. The Royal Bank of Scotland and Strategic Value Partners have taken over the remaining 25 per cent with a $25m equity injection and debt to equity swap.
Q: What will change in the Group after the takeover? How independent will Ferretti Group management be in its decisions?
A: Weichai has given Ferretti Group managers a large autonomy. They have chosen a young CEO (Rossi is 40 years’ old) and they have long term growth plans to provide continuity for the future. In contrast to our previous shareholders, Weichai works on a 10-year-term, not two-three years. This is typical of industrial investors, which have a long temporal horizon.
Q: Are there any Chinese managers in the top positions inside Ferretti Group today? Will there be?
A: The chairman, Mr Tan Xuguang, is Chinese and the vice chairman too. Their role is to represent Weichai, but they have no operational powers in the daily management of the company. What counts in Ferretti Group today (as it has always been) is not the nationality, but the competence. We are putting together a multi-cultural team in a multinational company, in order to maintain different perspectives and to increase knowledge. Some young Chinese employees, between 25 and 27, have joined our teams. They are fundamental in helping us work on the strategies for Asia and in understanding the peculiarities of the Asian clientele, to see what they want compared to European consumers. We also have an external consultant that is assisting us in intercultural communication inside the company.
Q: How are you planning to preserve the strong ‘Made in Italy’ character of the Ferretti Group and its brands? What do you believe the ‘Made in Italy’ label means in reference to yachts?
A: Made in Italy is our ‘main brand’, it is synonymous with elegance, exclusivity, high quality and superior style, and this is even more true when referred to our sector. We don’t see the takeover of Ferretti Group by Weichai as a threat to our ‘Made in Italy’ label. On the contrary, our Chinese shareholders are even more aware of the value of Italian-made goods, which will be both protected and safeguarded.
Q: Will any brand of Ferretti Group be transferred to China in terms of production?
A: Absolutely not. I would like to point out that none of our Italian brands or Italian yachts will ever be built in China, because Ferretti Group has always been, is, and always will be a symbol of ‘Made in Italy’ production in the world. All of our Italian brands will continue to be produced in Italy.
Q: Are you planning to introduce new brands specifically dedicated to Chinese customers? If so, what kind and size?
A: Yes, we are considering the idea of creating a new line of boats, which will enter the ‘recreational boating segment’. These boats will be designed specifically for production in China and aimed at the Asia-Pacific markets. This will allow us to take advantage of the extraordinary abilities and product knowledge which currently exist within the Ferretti Group. We haven’t decided on the kind and size yet.
Q: How important is the Chinese market for Ferretti Group? Do you expect that the Weichai takeover will help you boost sales in China?
A: It is of paramount importance and will be even more so in the coming years. We expect the Weichai takeover to help us a lot in this market. We are planning to open showrooms in China, to bring our ‘Made in Italy’ character closer to our potential customers. Moreover, SHIG-Weichai Group will cooperate closely with our Group, providing new distribution channels, financial support as well as other resources, in order to boost our expansion at an international level, especially in the emergent markets. The deal will benefit from important synergies, through resource sharing and industrial integration, allowing the optimisation of costs, the consolidation of the commercial channels as well as after-selling services.
Q: How is the Ferretti Group performing in the US?
A: The North American market is highly strategic for the nautical sector and for us because it remains the largest market in the world. For this reason we are aiming at further strengthening our distribution network, with new dealerships from Florida to the north-east, in Greenwich, Newport, in Sag Harbor, Michigan and in California.
Moreover, last May the Ferretti Group started to relocate the Bertram Yacht factories from their historical Miami facility to the strategic, brand-new marina in Merritt Island, Florida, USA. The new state-of-the-art production plant will extend over an area of almost 14,000m2 and will further widen Bertram’s product range.
Q: How is the group’s operation in Brazil going?
A: The Ferretti Group is greatly interested in Brazil, which is today not only one of the world’s leading economies, but also a country with a great nautical culture. We established Ferrettigroup Brazil in 2010 with the objective of creating a single reference center for the production, the marketing and the aftersales services for all the Group’s yachts and of helping to contribute to the expansion of our business in this country. We intend to continue to work in this direction.
Q: How has boat demand changed in the past year in terms of geography?
A: The Group as a whole has registered a considerable increase in sales from the non-European market. In 2008, for example, 76 per cent of sales were registered in the European market (including Italy), whilst those of non-European markets counted for 24 per cent.
Today our Group generates 15 per cent of its sales from Asia-Pacific, with Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounting for approximately 50 per cent. The Americas constitutes around 35 per cent.
The aim is for sales to be realigned so that each region generates approximately one-third of sales by 2018.
Q: Have you noticed any pickup in demand in any particular segment?
A: The flybridge sector continues to out perform the rest at present, due to the greater allocation of space on board. That will be the sector we will be pushing in China.
Q: How is the Italian market fairing, compared to the rest of the world?
A: All I can say is, thank God we are performing well outside Italy. Italian institutions are not very supportive of our industry. We hope that this will improve in the future.