What was the reason for acquiring Rec Boat Holdings last June?
The acquisition marks a new stage in the strategic plan for Beneteau Group’s expansion. It is a strategy that has made us change from being world leader in sailing boats and European distributor of motorboats to a new arena where we are now distributing all types of motorboats internationally. The acquisition of Rec Boat, with its brands Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab, is part of our world development in motorboats, and particularly in the North American market.
What is Beneteau’s position in North America?
We have been present in United States since 1985, with a sailing boat factory in South Carolina. We then became Number 1 in the American sailing boat market, with our brands Beneteau, Jeanneau and Lagoon. Since 2010 we have strengthened our position in the 12m-plus motoryacht sector. Our presence in motorboats from 6m-9m, the core of the US market, is more difficult. It makes no financial sense to import these smaller boats from Europe to America. This is why we would like to find a strong local partner with their own industrial tools.
What are your objectives for the US market?
The Beneteau Group today holds 2%-3% of the US market for motorboats. Rec Boat Holdings has a similar percentage. Our aim is to reach 10% of the US motorboat market.
What is the nature of Groupe Beneteau’s partnership with Rec Boat Holdings?
We have maintained an independent management for both Rec Boat and Beneteau America. Rec Boat is spearheading the development of small boats in the US, as they have a very keen knowledge of the American market. But nothing is fixed and the organisation could change. What is important is to set boundaries between the Rec Boat brands and the French brands of the Group. They should be complementary and only competitive on profit margins. At the same time it might be possible in the short term to build Beneteau or Jeanneau boats at the Rec Boat shipyards in the US. Just as we could build Well Craft or Scarab boats in the Group’s European boatyards.
What about distribution?
Our aim is that we should both be able to use each other’s distribution networks and that the Beneteau Group boats are represented by Rec Boat dealers in North America and that Rec Boat should grow worldwide using the Group’s vast global network.
What is your relationship with Brunswick?
They are rivals but also a partner in as much as they are suppliers of motors for the Group’s production.
Beneteau was 130 years old last year. What do you think has been its main achievement?
Clearly the Group’s ability to weather crises has strengthened us. We were able to bounce back and seize opportunities. The company is today even bigger in a smaller and smaller market. That is our main achievement: to have increased our market share when the market is contracting.
And the biggest difficulties?
Definitely the osmosis fiasco, which affected the whole range of First sailing boats at the end of the ‘90s. But it’s with hindsight that you can appreciate the real problems – projects that took longer than others to complete, when sometimes they are completed more quickly than planned. What is important is that things should be positive overall.
Will you be making more acquisitions?
Our 2010/2020 strategic plan forecasts two external growth projects, the first now completed with the acquisition of Rec Boat Holdings.
What’s your view of the international market?
America was clearly on the road to recovery last year. Recovery in the emerging markets is postponed for monetary reasons, particularly in Russia, Turkey and the Middle East. Despite postponement, we think that Asia and South America are developing structurally. Things are also bouncing back in Europe. Spain and the UK are taking off and there are
signs in Italy. I think that contraction is now over in France but that we’re going to have to wait some time before seeing real recovery. France undoubtedly won’t be the first country to take off, but the downward trend will stop in 2015, showing that we are resilient.