How is Fountaine Pajot managed today?
Jean-François Fountaine, founder of the company in 1976, was CEO of the yard until June 2014 when he decided to devote all his time to his new job as Mayor of La Rochelle.
The structure of the company changed, with a board of directors headed his wife, Claire Fountaine, and an executive general management. It was an easy change-over. 40% of the shares of the company, which is quoted on Alternext, are held by the market, and 5% are held by an institutional investor, a branch of Crédit Agricole. The remaining shares are held by the Compagnie du Catamaran, a holding owned mainly by the Fountaine family.
What is your sales strategy and how is the market responding?
As we are quoted on the stock market, I can’t give you the official results before the middle of November. However, we should have fulfilled our growth forecast of over 10% for the year.
The French market was satisfactory in 2016. It represented 15% of our sales in the previous fiscal year. We are continuing to grow internationally, with European sales representing 27%.
The Brexit referendum doesn’t seem to have impacted our sales in the UK. So 60% of our sales are therefore outside Europe and15% in North America (US and Canada). The West Indies represents 17% to 18%, and the rest of the world 28% to 30%.
Even if this last sector has been lacklustre over the last few years, Australia is an important market, as are South Africa and the Middle East. Top-of-the-range products, 37ft to 50ft, now represent 75% of our sales. Of the grand total, only 15% to 20% concern motoryachts.
Are catamarans for charter fleets an important market?
We must talk about clients here, and not types of boats. Traditionally, 30% of our sales are for charter fleets – for example, Dreamyacht or KiriaKoulis. They have leasing programmes for private clients. It is a very buoyant market. Chartering a boat is very popular and contributes to our growth rates. It is, of course, a very influential trend in the market.
Are you thinking about building bigger boats?
We are thinking about larger models, even though this isn’t one of our immediate priorities. Before launching a new project, we make lengthy in-depth studies about the size of the product, market positioning and pricing compared with the competition.
Our three new products show how dynamic we are: there’s the Lucia 40 (launched in late 2015) and two new products for 2017 – a New 47 and MY 44.
So what are your priorities today?
We are convinced that the motor catamaran is going to lead the market. The sailing public who tries out a sailing catamaran does not go back to the single hull sailing boat.
There are so many benefits: spaciousness, comfort, safety, etc. These are the benefits of motor catamarans too. This is the sector that will lead growth in our yard in the years to come.
To respond to this demand we have studied the concept, come up with the brand Motor Yachts (MY) and new features. We were positioned till now in the cruise boat niche – the former Trawler Catamaran range – and now we are repositioning in the motor yachting market, studying new designs, fittings and finishings.
Our objective is to sell 30% of our output via the Motor Yachts brand. For this, we have a coherent range, a good price positioning and a robust network.
Are you looking to expand the business?
More important than size are the skills that we do not yet have that are vital and that we are concentrating on. We have grown and have strengthened our teams. Our market plan is clear.
We have the strength of our ambitions, we are healthy financially and we have the trust of our bankers and shareholders. One of Fountaine Pajot’s many strengths is also its flexibility; solid teams and good in-house communication. Our Ocean 40 project is a great catalyst. And above all, we are passionate about our projects, about the boats that we launch.