OPINION: Chinese interest in superyachts awakens despite ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’


China’s interest in superyachts has long been predicted but never realised. Perhaps, that is, until now. Could those optimistic, some might say wildly optimistic, forecasts solidify into reality – despite the Beijing government’s public hostility towards ostentatious wealth?

Recent signs suggest, if not the green shoots of superyacht growth in the emergent Asian superpower, then at least some warming of interest.

Heesen Yachts CEO Arthur Brouwer told me this week that the superyacht builder is starting to see attention from wealthy Chinese individuals. “The Chinese market is starting to see interest in superyachts – particularly in the 50-metre plus category,” Brouwer said at his press meeting in London to celebrate progress in building the 80-metre Project Cosmos.

‘Unprecedent wealth growth’

China’s wealthiest certainly have the means to pay for the biggest and shiniest of superyachts. According to a recent Wealth-X report, China has seen “unprecedented wealth growth in recent years”. This year China overtook Japan to become the second largest wealth market, with an estimated 2.3m high-net worth individuals (HNWI).  And there are nearly 26,700 ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI).

Further evidence – albeit more-flimsy in nature – emerged from the Chinese digital publication dedicated to luxury goods Jing Daily. It claimed: “Arguably the world’s largest economy, China’s wealthiest individuals are slowly beginning to show interest in this relatively ‘foreign’ industry [luxury yachts].”

Recently modified rules governing the registration of foreign vessels in China and improvements to its maritime law and facilities along its 11,180 miles of coastline were amounting to a sea change in attitudes to luxury yachting, argued the publication.

“Tigers” and “flies”

What is beyond doubt is Beijing’s determination to crack down on what President Xi Jinping described as “tigers” and “flies” – powerful leaders and low-level bureaucrats – in his long-running campaign against corruption. How that will continue to impact spending on ostentatious luxury items – such as 50-metre superyachts – remains to be seen.

Perhaps a good place to test the water will be the 25th China International Boat Show, from March 31 – April 2, 2020 at the Shanghai, National Exhibition and Convention Center.

Tigers and flies will not be in evidence, Superyacht Investor confidently predicts. But there just might be signs of an emergent superyacht industry.

Meanwhile, in 2017, aluminium exporting giant China Zhongwang acquired a controlling stake in Silver Yachts, a Perth-based shipyard that produces all-aluminium superyachts, as pictured above.

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