“The market sees us as a “consolidator” of this industry”
Hervé Gastinel CEO of Beneteau Group gave us an exclusive interview about the strategy and prospects for the future of the french shipyard.
Yacht & Sea: Hervé, it seems that Beneteau has officially become number one in the world. What exactly is the situation for the group?
Hervé Gastinel: I’m not going to focus on the position because there are quite a number of differences between the groups, each one evolving on their universe. Turnover is one thing, but the reality of market segment is more important to me. The market is quite good and we have had four years of growth for the group of around 10% per year, so we are coming to a peak of activity where the pace of growth will inevitably slow down a little, but the outlook remains good and our sales are still growing, especially during the last international boat shows in Europe and in the United States. Today we are still very optimistic but cautious about the outlook for the next two years, particularly because of the trade war and interest rate developments.
Yacht & Sea: One of the growth elements of the group is external growth. Are these acquisitions the result of opportunities or is it something anchored in the DNA of the group and which will continue in the coming years?
Hervé Gastinel: The group’s history is made up of a mix of internal and external growth. The founding acquisition was that of Jeanneau by Beneteau, which established the group’s ability to carry out structuring operations and to be able to manage multi-brands. Today, we have 12 brands in the boat business with, most recently, the acquisition of Polish shipyard Delphia and the launch of Excess. 2018 is quite representative of the group’s policy with internal and external growth. We will continue with this trend. We made a major acquisition four years ago in the United States with Rec Boat (Glastron, Four Winns, Wellcraft, Scarab), then in Europe in 2018 and we continued to look at market opportunities. What is rather reassuring for people like us is that the market sees us as a “consolidator” of this industry and therefore we see a lot of interesting cases going on, but we remain selective by taking into account the value of these companies. We also need to consider what they can bring us in our portfolio of brands and in our positions on the market.
Yacht & Sea: The group intends to enter into a collaborative economy, particularly through the Boat Clubs and « Band of Boats ». What exactly is the group’s strategy in this field?
Hervé Gastinel: This segment corresponds to new uses that are developing as an alternative to the property. Overall, the yachting sector is lagging behind in this field and as an important actor of the yachting we must propose something. For the moment the initiatives that we launch are like small seeds to see the market reaction but we have a real digital strategy with the acquisition of Digital Nautic, for example; a startup that helps us strengthen our back office regarding dealers by giving them tools that facilitate the reservation of boats. More generally, Band of Boats is a multi-brand and multi-service platform that aims to attract new practitioners and all these new forms of service that can be offered such as the Boat clubs or financing formulas inspired by the long term renting in the car business. We have also reached an agreement with a US company that proposes to facilitate co-ownership and it is also a good example of a collaborative economy on which a group like Beneteau must be present.
Yacht & Sea: The group experiences around 30% of its turnover in the United States. How does it evolve and what about the Asian market?
Hervé Gastinel: As far as the US market is concerned, this remains absolutely strategic for us, because it is twice as big as the European market with one of the highest per capita boat ratios in the world. The nautical culture is also very developed with a highly segmented market and a very specific offer depending on the uses. It is a very good test for a manufacturer to impose itself in such a demanding market. We are here with all our brands, whether American or European, which allows us to offer a fairly unique range of diversity to our American dealers. The market remains dynamic, it is still growing and Beneteau continues to invest by increasing its production capacity including the opening of a new facility in Cadillac, Michigan.
Regarding Asia, for the moment it’s an equipment market rather than a renewal and we are almost in a role of evangelization. We have to explain what pleasure-boating is and bring Asian customers to discover the navigation, this understandably takes longer. Boat clubs will also be important to help popularize this activity. In addition, the Beneteau group plans to produce in Asia in the coming years, once sales are a little more established, that is to say that we are on a five to ten year strategy.