One of South Africa’s leading commercial shipbuilders has expanded into the leisure boating market with the acquisition of Durban-based boatbuilder Austral Marine.

Nautic Africa, a Cape Town-based Paramount Group company better known for warships than leisure boating, said it plans to broaden its marine horizons and increase “competence in composite manufacturing”.

Austral Marine is a 30-year-old family-owned business and manufacturer of two well-known local boat brands, Panache and Angler. Industry sources believe the deal, the latest in a long shopping list of recent Nautic acquisitions, could be a precursor to further expansion into the leisure market.

In a statement released this week, Nautic Group CEO James Fisher said he hoped to enhance existing Austral business as well as diversify its product range.

“Nautic has deep respect for Austral Marine, which has nurtured the best and oldest South African leisure boat building brands such as Angler boats, Panache and Odyssey. We will continue to not only support the dealer network in South Africa, but also grow the market internationally,” Fisher said.

“Austral’s strong dealer network and their impressive, predominantly in-house, manufacturing process is an integral part of their long time success and the reasons why we were interested in pursuing this acquisition,” he said.

Fisher said Austral could potentially double its current build capacity of six boats a week, in addition to benefiting from Nautic's access to export markets.

Nautic also plans to strengthen Austral’'s buying power, increase revenue by 50%, and boost the company's financial and personnel management in view of future growth – including further growth in the African market.

Nautic said in its statement: “With a continued focus on high-quality products that are able to compete favourably against imported boats and an increased output, Austral will be able to contribute towards employment growth in the region.”

Austral founder Donald Jarrat said the Austral team was excited. “We have concentrated on building a skilled team of people who are diversified enough in their talents to tackle most challenges,” Jarrat said.