Ferretti Group Yacht
The interior of the CRN 60m Blue Eyes yacht is seen at the International Boat Show in Genoa, October 5, 2010. Italian luxury yacht maker Ferretti Group is looking for partnerships in China and India after restructuring its 1.1 billion euros debt last year, its CEO said, adding sales could return to pre-crisis levels in 2013-14. REUTERS

Chinese machinery maker Shandong Heavy Industry Group on Tuesday sealed a deal to take a 75 percent stake in debt-laden Italian yachtmaker Ferretti Group, the latest in a series of Chinese acquisitions of European brands.

Beijing has said it wants companies to acquire top brands as a shortcut to global success and more Chinese companies are aiming to take advantage of Europe's financial woes by picking up assets on the cheap.

Shandong Heavy's deal followed last month's $3.5 billion acquisition of the Portuguese government's stake in utility EDP SA by China Three Gorges Corp.

The deal would help Ferretti better tap the 7 billion euro global yacht industry and meet growing Chinese demand for luxury goods for the coming five to 10 years, Ferretti Group Chairman Norberto Ferretti said in a statement.

China is one of the most rapidly developing countries for the yachting sector and has great potential, the companies said in a joint statement released at a signing ceremony in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan.

Shandong Heavy Chairman Tan Xuguang said the company would provide Ferretti with resources including new marketing channels and capital support to expand more effectively into emerging markets.

Shandong Heavy will seek a separate listing for Ferretti in Hong Kong in three to five years, Tan said.

Under the deal, Ferretti's debt of 580 million euros would be fully acquired, John Davison, global head of strategic investment at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, one of Ferretti's main creditors, told reporters.

The Italian company would also receive an equity injection of 100 million euros and an 80 million euro loan, he said.

RBS and Strategic Value Partners, another creditor of Ferretti, would each take a 12.5 percent stake in the yachtmaker as part of the capital injection, Davison said.

Shandong Heavy will invest a total of 374 million euros, including a 178 million euro equity investment and the provision of 196 million euros in debt financing.

Through the acquisition, Ferretti's capital structure will be fully restructured, with equity capital increased by 100 million euros and total debts reduced to around 100 million euros.

Founded in 1968, Ferretti was saddled with 1.2 billion euros of debt in 2007 after the company's leveraged buyout by Candover Partners. The company defaulted on its debt in January 2009 during the economic downturn.

Lenders to Ferretti agreed in April 2009 to write down the debt to 560 million euros in return for a 53 percent stake in the company from Candover, which lost its investment in the business.


Synergy between the group and Ferretti can be unleashed through the sharing of resources and industrial integration, said Shandong Heavy's Tan.

Shandong Heavy, which makes construction machinery, power systems, commercial vehicles and auto parts, is the ultimate parent of Hong Kong and Shenzhen-listed diesel engine maker Weichai Power Co Ltd . Shandong Heavy had operating income of 107.6 billion yuan in 2010.

The companies' statement said Shandong Heavy would retain Ferretti's key management team, headquarters and production bases in Italy.

The trend of Chinese companies' overseas acquisitions is also evidenced by automaker Geely's acquisition of Ford Motor Co's Volvo car unit in 2010 -- and traceable back to 2004 when Lenovo Group Ltd bought the personal computer business of International Business Machines Corp.

Bank of China Ltd was among the lenders eyeing parts of RBS, as the process began to trim the investment banking arm of the government-owned British bank, sources told Reuters last week.

Ferretti, which owns the Pershing, Riva and Ferretti Yachts brands, last year signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Shandong Heavy for a joint venture to design and sell motor yachts in greater China and other emerging markets.

Ferretti ranked the first in the 2011 Global Order Book, the benchmark annual report on the global nautical industry by specialised magazine ShowBoat International.

The global yacht market has been in decline since the financial crisis in 2008, leading to an industry consolidation, while China's yacht imports increased threefold from 2009 to 2010, according to the joint statement.

Simpson Marine, an international yacht brokerage based in Hong Kong, said it had so far not seen a slowdown in Chinese demand for yachts.

The opening of new marinas, yachting facilities and yachting events in China, especially on the Southern Coast, is actually fuelling demand for yachts, said Olivier Burlot, Simpson Marine's group managing director.