x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Gulf Craft rides a wave of demand

Gulf Craft, one of the largest yacht manufacturers in the Middle East, increased sales by 20 per cent in the first six months of the year as superyachts sailed off the shelves.

Smooth sailing: yachts at Gulf Craft's manufacturing plant in Umm Al Quwain. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Smooth sailing: yachts at Gulf Craft's manufacturing plant in Umm Al Quwain. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Gulf Craft, one of the largest yacht manufacturers in the Middle East, increased sales by 20 per cent in the first six months of the year as superyachts sailed off the shelves.

The boat maker, which this week delivered a 125-foot yacht to a client in the French Riviera, had a strong first half for superyachts and smaller pleasure boats.

"We have been satisfied with the growth compared to last year," said Erwin Bamps, the chief operating officer for Gulf Craft.

"In general the 20 per cent revenue growth is driven by volume increases and big yachts."

The robust growth in sales is the latest data underpinning the booming retail, travel and hospitality market in the Arabian Gulf, where most of the boat maker's trade is plied.

Retailers and hoteliers have reported heady sales and high occupancies so far this year as GCC government spending on infrastructure and direct transfers to nationals have increased.

Further illustrating the trend, Fawaz Alhokair and Company, one of the biggest retailers in the region and headquartered in Saudi Arabia, yesterday announced a 48 per cent increase in net profits to 120.9 million Saudi riyals (Dh118.4m) for its first quarter ending on June 30.

The company partners more than 70 brands, including Marks & Spencer, Zara and Gap, across 1,200 stores in seven countries.

Mr Bamps said superyachts and smaller boats were selling well,but boats in the middle, between 45ft and 85ft, remained in choppy waters. "You either have people with a lot of money to spend or a little money to spend," he said. "There is limited financing for people that want to buy in the middle range."

Boats in this range sell for between US$500,000 (Dh1.8m) and $4m with high global supply in this range also affecting the market, Mr Bamps said.

Many boat owners overstretched their finances running up to the financial crisis, particularly in Dubai, and had to quickly offload their vessels, leading to a supply glut in the market.

Mr Bamps said that extra supply meant those buyers considering a yacht were often looking at pre-owned market first.

Al-Futtaim Group, one of the biggest family-owned conglomerates in the UAE, launched a boat services unit called Al-Futtaim Marine in March in part to buy and sell pre-owned and new yachts.

The new company also offers maintenance and repair services, insurance and sales of new engines and marine component parts, as the UAE becomes a yachting hub for the Middle East region.

Gulf Craft's latest superyacht, the Majesty 125, was partly custom-built for its owner and features a bespoke interior, a Jacuzzi and sun beds on the upper deck.

"We have been a company that's been aggressive in pricing and providing a value product," said Mr Bamps, adding that the brand generally priced about 20 per cent cheaper than the competition for similarly sized boats.

rjones@thenational.ae

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