Oyster sold

Tue Feb 21 2012, 17:08 PM

UK boatbuilder acquired by Dutch investment firm

The UK’s Oyster Marine has been bought by HTP Investments, a Dutch investment firm owned by entrepreneurs Wim de Pundert and Klaas Meertens. The acquisition includes the Oyster Group companies Oyster Marine Ltd, Oyster Brokerage Ltd and Southampton Yacht Services Ltd.

Commenting on the deal Klaas Meertens said: "As investors, we are delighted to have the opportunity to add such a strong and prestigious British brand to our select portfolio of companies and have every confidence in Oyster's CEO, David Tydeman and the existing management team to take the business forward. For myself and Wim, this is a personal acquisition and a long term investment. We look forward to working with David and the team to develop Oyster's strategy for the future and build on the success the whole team at Oyster has achieved over the last three years."

Oyster CEO David Tydeman said, "This is a fantastic opportunity for Oyster, our team of loyal staff and suppliers. HTP Investment's acquisition is funded by the private funds of its two partners and means that Oyster can look forward to a period of long term stability, doing what we do best – building great sailing yachts."

Though HTP and Oyster declined to reveal just how much the deal was worth, it is reputed to be between £10m-£15m, substantially less than the reputed £70m Balmoral paid for Oyster four years ago.

HTP acquired Oyster using exclusive funds of the partners Wim de Pundert and Klaas Meertens and is therefore it claims, not subject to any restrictions with respect to the amount invested and the period over which the investment is held. According to HTP, it expands the activities of its portfolio companies both through organic growth and further acquisitions, supporting the management in strategic decision making and any required reorganisation of the firm's financial structure. However, as yet HTP Investments has not disclosed details of the new financial structure for Oyster.

Oyster, whose range currently comprises 12 models from 46ft-125ft, has been enjoying a relatively busy two years — in January it closed two new contracts for an Oyster 625-11 and an Oyster 54-21, bringing the total value of its order book for contracts signed in the last 24 months to nearly £80m, plus £25m of superyacht contracts.

However, since its acquisition by Balmoral Capital at the height of the boom in late 2007, the firm had been saddled with the debts of its parent company Ocean Wave Finance (incorporated on 14 Dec 2007) which had long term debt of £40.7m at the end of December 2009 plus current loans of £2.5m.

Balmoral Capital joins the growing list of external investors to have had their fingers burned following the collapse of the marine market back in 2008. Speaking to IBI back in 2009, Richard Winkles, head of the UK-based private equity firm, admitted to believing Oyster was largely recession-resistant because of the high net-worth profile of typical buyers. Nonetheless, Balmoral didn’t rule out the possibility of a downturn. “We looked at 30 years of history in the industry and couldn’t find a down cycle of more than 30 per cent at any time, so we built our capital structure around that,” explained Winkles. “We ran our worst-case scenarios based on about a 25 per cent fall in the market, but we didn’t budget for declines of more than twice that.”