The Medi Telegraph, a maritime online news portal, has posted a story claiming that Benetti is in acquisition talks with “a major Chinese group.” Industry rumours that Benetti Chairman Paolo Vitelli (pictured) is interested in selling have been circulating for some time, but the report went a step further by specifying the price for a majority share in the shipyard at €300 million.

“A financial source close to the matter has confirmed … that a dossier is already with Mediobanca, which has been entrusted with the role of advisor,” says the report. “But that’s not all: there is another company waiting in the wings, also from Asia, which has also shown interest in the Benetti sale, although it is keeping quiet for the moment.”

Vitelli acquired the Fratelli Benetti shipyard in Viareggio in 1985 to create the Azimut Benetti Group, the world’s most prolific builder of superyachts. In 2015, Azimut Benetti sold a 12 per cent share to the Milan-based investment company, Tamburi Investment Partners. The deal included a €30 million capital increase from the newly joined company.

There is no doubt that Chinese investors are showing strong interest in the European yacht building sector. In 2012, Ferretti was acquired by the Chinese heavy machinery company Weichai Group; in 2013, the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda acquired Sunseeker, the UK's leading luxury yacht builder; and a year later Sanlorenzo entered into a venture with Sundiro Holding to establish Sanlorenzo China Holding Limited, a Hong Kong-based company that will distribute the Italian-built motoryachts to the greater Chinese market (China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan).

The sale of Benetti, the Global Order Book’s top-ranking producer, to Chinese interests would send shockwaves through the industry. But when SuperyachtNews asked Benetti to comment on whether the brand is indeed for sale, the company reiterated Vitelli’s emphatic response to the online claim as “an unfounded rumour.”

“I have not been contacted by any Chinese company,” stated the Benetti Chairman. “At this time the shipyard is growing and we are enjoying a good period of production. We have no intention of selling.”

(portrait photo by Justin Ratcliffe)

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