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Ferretti Said to Mull Selling Smaller Yachts, Keeping Biggest

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By Andrea Manzini and Sara Gay Forden

May 13 (Bloomberg) — Ferretti SpA, the Italian yachtmaker seized by creditors last month, may sell some of its entry-level luxury boat brands and focus on the most expensive vessels to survive, five people familiar with the company’s plans said.

Disposals may include the Apreamare and Itama units, which suffered the most cancellations of Ferretti’s nine marques as customers lacking the resilience of the ultra-rich were spooked by the credit crisis or lost financing, the people said. They declined to be identified as no decision has been finalized.

“Focusing on the top-class public decisively decreases the risk of cancellations,” Nicolo Nunziata, an analyst at J&C Associati in Milan, said of Forli, Italy-based Ferretti. “Buying those brands was a strategic mistake.”

Ferretti capped a decade of acquisitions with an attempt to go public in 2008. That failed with the end of a four-year stock market boom that had created a wave of new clients.

Apreamare fishing boats sell for as little as 500,000 euros ($665,700) and the unit has been valued at around 60 million euros, including its shipyard, the people said. Riva, which won’t be sold, caters to wealthier buyers and makes 115-foot yachts that command 12 million euros apiece.

A spokeswoman for Ferretti declined to comment. Apreamare Chairman Cataldo Aprea said he’s leading an investor group interested in buying back his family brand.

A group of 100 creditors led by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc converted their debt to equity to avert bankruptcy for Ferretti, restructuring 1.2 billion euros of debt in April. The stake held by former owner Candover Investments Plc, a London- based private-equity firm, was wiped out after Ferretti missed payments on loans related to its 2007 buyout.

Debt Payments

Lenders expect Ferretti to start paying interest on the restructured debt from June, helped by a wave of customer payments as yachts are delivered for summer, the people said.

Until a new chief executive is found, the yachtmaker will be run by current managers, including co-founder Norberto Ferretti, along with input from investment bank Mediobanca SpA, which is jointly investing 85 million euros. RBS and the other creditors-turned-equity holders don’t have voting rights.

Ferretti’s most opulent offerings include custom-designed CRN yachts, which can exceed 200 feet and sell for as much as 40 million euros. A similarly long GiVi vessel comes with a gym, helicopter pad and what Ferretti calls a “wellness area.”

Bertram Yacht, Apreamare

Among other potential asset sales, the people said Miami- based Bertram Yacht Inc., known for sport-fishing vessels, may dispose of prime property near the Florida city’s airport and relocate production. Bertram isn’t among the brands being considered for sale, they said.

Ferretti bought the 49-year-old brand in 1998. Prospects for expanding Bertram have diminished as its appeal outside the U.S. didn’t catch on as quickly as planned and the recession hurt demand in its home market, the people said.

Several bidding groups are interested in buying the 160- year-old Apreamare brand, two people familiar with the talks said. Ferretti would consider selling Apreamare together with Itama for an undisclosed price, the people said.

Apreamare sells fishing boats and yachts measuring between 28 feet and 64 feet, topping out at a price of 4 million euros. The boat maker is based in Torre Annunziata, Italy, near Naples, and is best known for its traditional “gozzi sorrentini,” the typical fishing boats used in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast.

Apreamare has recently invested in improving its shipyard, which also produces boats for Itama. Cataldo Aprea founded the shipyard in 1983 and stayed on to run the business after he sold to Ferretti in 2001, stepping down as chief executive last year. “We need to see what the best solution is,” Aprea said by phone. He declined to comment on what he’d be willing to pay.

Ferretti generates about 75 percent of its business outside Italy, including 15 percent in the U.S. Candover’s 2007 acquisition of Ferretti valued the company at 1.5 billion euros.

The company was founded in 1968, when brothers Alessandro and Norberto Ferretti started a nautical showroom with Chris- Craft Industries Inc. of the U.S. The Ferretti family business had previously been selling luxury cars, such as Lamborghinis.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Manzini in London at amanzini1@bloomberg.net; Sara Gay Forden in Milan at sforden@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: May 13, 2009 12:15 EDT


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