Booming order book, new models and investment for Sunseeker

Tue Sep 12 2017, 15:03 PM

CEO Phil Popham told IBI at Cannes that the UK builder has seen a major boost in orders

Showcasing eight models at the Cannes boat show this week, Sunseeker has seen a major boost in orders with a forward order book up 67% on the same period for last year. “We’re 50% sold for next year,” CEO Phil Popham told IBI at the show that opened today. “We’re 90% sold out for this year with only a handful of boats left to sell and they’ll go in the upcoming shows. We’re taking deposits into the 2019 season,” he added.

The growth comes following significant levels of R&D investment, resulting in five new model launches last year and a further four in 2017. New model launches for 2018 will include a Predator 50 and a Predator 74 that will be unveiled in January, with a Sport Yacht version hitting the water six months later. The drop in the value of sterling has also been a major boon, making the UK builder highly competitive against Italian, French and US rivals.

The Manhattan 66 is making its show debut in Cannes, following its launch at London in January. So far close to 50 units have been sold. The end of the week will also see the unveiling of the 76 Yacht and the Predator 57 MKII at the Southampton boat show. Both models epitomise the new data-driven product development being utilised by the builder in a rolling five-year product plan.

Design cues include more use of floor-to-ceiling windows and more family-orientated, voluminous interiors. Entertainment spaces have been maximised with beamier master cabins and ‘superyacht style’ beach clubs across the range, even on the smaller 52.

“It’s about talking to the customers, understanding how they use the boats and what they want. We have developed new hulls that are more useable with layouts that utilise every square inch of space,” said Popham. “We have 30% more volume in the 95 compared to its predecessor, for instance.”

The foredeck is also becoming increasingly important, and on the 76 Yacht is a real feature offering the owner greater levels of privacy.

The UK builder returned to profitability last year registering £6m (EBITDA) for the year ended December 31, 2016. Revenues increased by 25% from £202.6m in 2015 to £252.4m last year. It expects revenues to be up again this year by 10% with volumes up by approximately 15%, reflecting a slight shift in product mix with the introduction of the smaller 52 and 66-footers.

“We’ll beat last year in terms of profit,” Popham added. The builder says it will be “capacity constrained” next year and will be investing in expanding its current facilities in Poole and Portland, UK to accommodate unit growth and new production techniques.

“We are continuing to invest in our facilities and people, with the creation of 122 jobs this year and a further 124 by January 2018 in order to meet the increase in demand across the model range.”

“We have some bold new product plans that will see us move up into larger superyachts using different build methods and materials for the first time and we will also be reaffirming our sporting heritage with the introduction of new smaller performance models. 2017 has been another defining year for Sunseeker and we are extremely optimistic about the future.”

As well as an emphasis on more volume and a family vibe, owners are also showing “new responsibility and purpose”, claims Popham, as ecological concerns come to the fore. “Corporate social responsibility resonates with our owners,” he told IBI.

The builder is using Cannes to announce its partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) – a charity dedicated to protecting the oceans for future generations.