Horizon Discuss The Chinese Market at Boat Asia

By Justin Harper

Life is good for John Lu, CEO of Horizon, which has grown to become Asia’s biggest yacht builder. Speaking aboard Tango 5, a 115-foot superyacht moored in Singapore’s Keppel Marina, Horizon is in a strong position to capitalise on the region’s growing wealth.

Horizon had three superyachts on display at this year’s Boat Asia which finished yesterday (April 21). This included the 120-foot Muses and the equally impressive Amadeus, at 90 foot.

More than 12,000 visitors attend the event which hosted a record number of yachts.

While much of the talk was about tapping into China’s expanding army of millionaires and billionaires, John Lu was quick to downplay the excitement.

He said: “I think the growth of the Chinese boat-buying market has been exaggerated. Yes it is getting bigger but not that big. The culture is just not there yet and yachts are bought more for entertaining than for sailing.

So while China will still be on Horizon’s radar, it is looking at promising markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Horizon’s major strength is its ability to custom-make a boat from scratch, something Asia’s wealthy sailors highly value.

Wealthy people have such diverse tastes. They have their own unique opinions and needs and we have to respect that. It could be large diving area, jacuzzis or karaoke bar. No two yacht buyers are the same.

This is what sets Horizon apart from European boat builders who tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach, he added.

Having grown to become Asia’s number one, what’s next for Horizon, which is firmly entrenched among the world’s top 10 biggest yacht makers?

We want a better market share and more exposure. That’s why we attend a lot of boat shows like this one. The Italians and other Europeans have been building boats more than 100 years and so there is a certain amount of catching up to do.

But with European yacht makers struggling, the likes of Horizon are poised to pounce. “This is a critical time for Asian yacht makers. We have such a good opportunity to build boats for Western markets although it is still a tough job.

About 40 per cent of Horizon’s clients come from Asia, including Australia, and this is still the main focus. This figure is likely to continue growing as China’s rapid economic expansion creates more wealth across Asia

Tango 5 will be staying in Singapore as it was commissioned by a local client. Of Horizon’s buyers, about one third of them come back to the Taiwanese company to upgrade their yachts.

Building a custom-made boat is like a baby. It’s not unusual for a client to visit us three or four times while their yacht is being built.

By Justin Harper
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