CEO series: Azimut - Benetti boss predicts slow-down for certain markets

3 April 2024 • by Katia Damborsky

Azimut | Benetti chief executive officer Marco Valle sits down with Katia Damborsky to predict an uncertain future, hint at new Motopanfilo models and shed some light on the regions where we can expect some slow-down... 

How do you always come out on top of the Global Order Book?

For Benetti, the core business is 100 per cent above 24 metres, so we really dominate that market.  Over the last six years we have been investing heavily in Azimut so that both sides of the spectrum are as strong as they can be. Now we have an extensive range above 24 metres, whereas before we were quite limited. 

So in just a few years we reinforced and enlarged the range, while being careful not to jeopardise our existing models by overlapping the yachts in different size segments. We are very careful and clear with our brand positioning for both Azimut and Benetti, as well. The design is different, the style is different, the client is different, and that distance has to be kept.

So you want to make sure Azimut isn’t catching up with Benetti in terms of size?

Exactly. But at the same time, we want to push Benetti up and up. The largest Benetti under construction now is a 72-metre BNow with the Oasis deck. It has a few more years [of construction] before completion. 

Alunya was Benetti's fourth-largest delivery last year

So when you saying getting bigger, you’re talking more about the brand positioning?


I see. Azimut and Benetti do have some overlap, though.

Yes, they overlap in terms of dimension but not from a client perspective. A 36-metre Azimut flybridge with a planing hull is a different boat to a 34-metre Benetti Oasis.

And what about explorer yachts? You have the B.Yond line which is now 37-metre and 55-metre. Are you going to go smaller as well?

We are working on that, but I can’t say any more.

Can you tell me about what kind of design trends you’re expecting to see in the future?

There is a direct connection between the lifestyle of a person and the design and layout of the boat. Features, layout and contents of boats are increasingly influenced by the social life of the owner. Our target is to anticipate these trends. Look at the Veranda deck – it’s really courageous to [promote] designs that don’t really have a proper saloon. But we believe in the indoor-outdoor trend, we think this will stick around.

The Veranda deck

What makes you say that?

In the past, owners used to [live] a more formal life on board. Now it's becoming less and less formal. Even in day-to-day life you can see that. Six, seven years ago, if somebody on the Board of Directors came to a meeting with sneakers, everybody would notice that. But now people want to be comfortable.

The Oasis line is all about that and that is a very successful line

Yes. I think about 26 units of the Oasis 40 metre have been sold so far.

You’re focusing a lot on new builds, but what are the big goals for Lusben this year?

Lusben isn’t a big part of the operation yet, but it will be. The volume will increase in terms of turnover and we have a target for the next few years to increase from 30 million to 50 million plus this year. We believe refit is a big part of the strategy.

Maltese Falcon was a big project for Lusben last year

What’s the big focus for the next year in terms of territories?

The Middle East. It’s already a strong market and it is growing. To be honest, we’re counting on that market gaining momentum because our shareholders are a Saudi group.

What does that partnership mean for the business?

For a business, this is a strategic alliance because they’re not changing our DNA or the way that we manage the company. But at the same time, we realise it's the right moment to do our part in the Middle East. Consider, as I said, that the market is growing more than in the past. There’s so much attention in that region right now [from the yachting industry].

Can I ask about the conflict in that part of the world? Is that affecting you? Are you worried about it?

I'm a human being, so yes I’m worried. I was worried for the business, which was affected at the beginning. But, they say that we can not judge a war based on a business.

Calex was delivered to an American owner

So at the moment, it hasn’t caused you that much trouble as a business?

I cannot deny the fact that [the conflict in the Middle East] created some business trouble, but we managed it and we overcame it. The main issue is that everyone was [pre-emptively] worried about the situation, which is actually playing out right now.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be next this year?

The market has been already slowing down, and I said this one year ago, it's a matter of fact that the demand, in terms of numbers of clients, is reduced and the number of boats that are on the market, especially on the brokerage side, has been increased. At the same time, I believe that when you have luxury products which have the strength of the brand, the range, the research, the market positioning – I don’t think we’ll face a decrease. We will of course anticipate more troubles in the future,  but I don't believe that we will really face a drastic decrease for both Benetti or Azimut.

Can you explain that a bit more?

At the end of the day, the number of potential buyers has increased. There is no financial crisis at the moment, and I don't believe there will be one in the future. So there is a lot of wealth in the world and the [number of] potential buyers for Benetti has been increased. Azimut is an entry-level brand, so that’s more of an area of concern. My point of view is that some of the wealthiest of our clients will not accept compromises so luxury products and luxury brands [like Benetti] will not be affected.

We noticed there might be a bit of a slowdown in the USA at the moment?

Yes, that’s true. The level of stock and inventory of all the dealers in the US has increased [across all yachting brands]. But one year ago, we capped the exportation [of Azimut yachts] to the USA in order to have a reduced volume of inventory. The US market has always been very important for us because it’s the most mature market in the world, but I think we are in the middle of counterbalancing right now. As I said, the big yachts probably won’t be affected by that.

Read More/Market report: how the United States shifted from biggest builder to biggest buyer

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