Dutch superyacht builder Moonen has announced it is back in operation following a temporary shutdown over the summer of 2015. The yard filed for a ‘suspension of payment’ – a precursor to bankruptcy which allows a business to restructure – in July 2015 following a cash flow problem with its major shareholder that was beyond the yard’s control.
Mexican steel giant Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA) acquired an 80 per cent stake in Moonen a couple of years ago, bringing supposed financial stability after a turbulent few years for the builder. “In this business, financing is the difficult part,” Emile Bilterijst, Moonen’s CEO, tells Superyacht News, “and in most cases it is done by the shareholders themselves as the banks are less willing to lend or invest. When AHMSA stepped in we were convinced we had a shareholder to finance the development of a new range of yachts and to start building them.”
The result of that investment was the Caribbean range, and AHMSA agreed to start the first 37 metre hull on spec (pictured above). “It was fine until the steel price dropped early in 2015,” Bilterijst continues, “which came more dramatically and drastically than we expected. In June 2015 it became clear that it was not possible to continue with the build of that Martinque yacht.”
The 40 per cent drop in steel prices was blamed on the dumping of cheap steel from Chinese and Russian suppliers; the net result was that AHMSA faced extensive cashflow problems of its own. However, since filing for suspension of payments, Moonen has been working hard toward a restructure and a solution. The yard also has a second, 30 metre yacht in build for a private European client (pictured below).
“We’ve been able to keep that other client on board,” says Bilterijst, “and we have been able to keep our skilled workforce inhouse. Construction is now continuing on that 30m build, and we are working hard to finish it for July 2016. We have also recently taken in two Moonen 97s for refit, both of which are due for relaunch in May 2016.”
It’s a clear sign of confidence from existing clients, and hopefully suggests a brighter future for the yard. “We still build an excellent product,” says Bilterijst, “and it’s not an issue of whether we can build a boat or not – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But new clients likely want financial guarantees as well, and it’s up to us to show that it’s not an issue.”
The next phase will be trying to find a buyer for the 37m Martinique, for which the hull and superstructure are 90 per cent complete but for which a high degree of customisation is still possible. Beyond that, Bilterijst says the yard is planning actively for its future. “I read just this morning that the steel and iron ore prices are dropping further,” he says, “so starting new on-spec builds is not viable at the moment. We have a willingness to find new shareholders or investors as well as a buyer for the Martinique project. Of course, it will all be solved if the steel price goes up again – preferably quickly and dramatically!”