May 8, 2011

Chinese building luxury yachts to meet tide of rising prosperity

The nation has 400 billionaires but only 100 Chinese-owned yachts longer than 60 feet.


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China’s rapidly increasing wealth is driving demand for vessels from dinghies to yachts.

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg News

"Europeans go on cruise for 10 days or two weeks," said Gordon Hui, managing director of Sunseeker Asia, which sells the Poole, Britain-built boats. "The Chinese use the boat for a few hours per weekend to entertain clients, family and friends. They use boats no differently than they would a karaoke lounge in the city."

The world's largest yacht is the 557-foot Eclipse, built for Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich. Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison owns a 447-foot boat.

Hudson Wang, president of Xiamen Hudson Yacht & Marine, is another industrialist who has moved up the value chain. His Xiamen-based group of companies makes everything from Louisville Slugger baseball bats to medical mattresses to life jackets.

In 2005, he began making inflatable craft and now makes boats up to 75 feet long for brands including Pearl Motor Yachts Ltd. in Stratford-on-Avon, England. He plans to launch his own brand in two years.

One of Hudson's customers -- Newport, R.I.-based Gunboat -- sells luxury, catamaran sailing yachts. Its founder, Peter Johnstone, said in an email that there's still a "made-in-China" bias to overcome in the international market.

He's sold three 60-foot boats made by Hudson to buyers in Germany, the U.S. and Taiwan.

"There will be naysayers, however I'm very confident in what we will achieve," he said. "The quality and detail is on par with any of the top yards in the world."


-- With assistance by Michael Wei in Qingdao.


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