WE WEALTH – COVER STORY , INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER & CEO GIOVANNI COSTANTINO
“Quality, innovation, customization. These are concepts that need to be sublimated, pushed to the extreme, when you deal with top clients”. The recipe from Giovanni Costantino, founder and CEO of The Italian Sea Group, global operator in the luxury yachting industry, listed on Euronext Milan (“EXM”) and active in the reconstruction and refit of motor yachts and sailing yachts, offers ideas, topics, points for reflection for all companies who are working with Ultra HNWI. Also, when it comes to the management of large assets.
Big yachts are a world of their own, beyond the concept of luxury. It is the hyper uranium into the blue. “There are no two identical objects, two equal installations. The architectural style, the choice of materials, the design, the navigation systems are unique. An example? In our shipyard we are building Art Explora, a sailing catamaran of 46.5 meters, the biggest in the world, which will host an important itinerant art gallery on board.”
This is how Giovanni Costantino, 59 years-old, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of The Italian Sea Group, tells us the extreme personalization which takes shape on board these yachts. His company, listed on Euronext Milan, operates at a global level in the construction and refit of motor and sailing yachts up to 140 meters. He is the first Italian producer of classic and elegant superyachts, a segment which is led by Admiral, one of the two historical brands of the Group.
The other is Tecnomar specialized in yachts up to 45 meters in length, a sportive style and cutting-edge design.
In 2021 the acquisition of Perini Navi, world leader in the design and realization of sailing yachts, already owner of Picchiotti Yact, another historical brand of the yachting industry. “One of the oldest in the world, its origins go back to 1600”, highlights Costantino.
A market, the one of mega yachts, that knows no crisis. In spite of the winds of recession, the skyrocketing energy prices and stock market collapses. “Our clients are ultra-high net worth individuals – he says – they are less vulnerable to the impact of financial markets”, ça va sans dire. And despite the freezing of orders from Russian customers, which inevitably ended up in the crosshairs of the European Union after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. “The first quarter confirmed numbers in strong growth, year on year, with revenues doubled, 69 million and Ebitda up by 120%. Results sustained from two strategic decisions: the acquisition of Perini Navi and the expansion of production capacity in Viareggio and La Spezia. The last Board of Directors confirmed the guidance on total revenues – foreseen in the range between 280 and 295 million, for the 2022, up by over 50% over the past year – and with Ebitda margin of about 15.5% “.
Won’t the geopolitical crisis impact your business?
The Russian market represents for us around 10% of total revenue, we have a small exposure. At the moment we have only one order destined to a client not affected by international sanctions, for a 75 meters yacht.
With reference to the motor yacht Scheherazade (rumoured to be owned by Vladimir Putin), in refit at the shipyard of Marina di Carrara, the precautionary freezing was ordered from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
A measure which, in any case, does not generate consequences of any kind on the rest of operations. I add that we do not have suppliers in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. And that all orders and refit activities advance without delays. In situations like this, diversification on global markets it offers an excellent parachute.
Which markets could balance the inevitable cooling of the Russian market?
The commercial expansion started in unsuspected times in Middle East, Mexico and Canada is giving excellent rewards. The response in the United States is encouraging too.
One year ago, The Italian Sea Group landed on the stock market. The listing is an important business card to show on international markets…
This topic weighted at least 80% on our decision to list.
It is a path which enhances the visibility, the reputation, the credibility of a brand. Fundamental elements when you think about a customer who lives on the other side of the world and who, after signing the contract, has wait four years on average before the launch of his yacht.
The stock market label can support us in terms of image. And the results are evident: within a year, I can say that the listing has contributed to the success of at least two important sales. Now we are ready to approach the American market financially too. In June we have organized our first road show. The second, which will be held by the end of 2022, will be the occasion to meet other international investors.
In the meantime, however, the war has fired up energy prices. This will have no consequences either at the level of production or at the level of demand?
In the first quarter of 2023 we will complete an important investment to accelerate the green transition. Between new build and refit, the second business is for sure the one that needs more energy. Yachts at berth must be supplied: a yacht of 140 meters consumes the equivalent of 80/100 thousand euro of electricity. But this does not impact the management of the company’s profit margin because costs are transferred to the customer.
How is sustainability declined on a yacht of big dimensions?
One yacht out of two among those we have under construction has hybrid engines. It means that for 60% of the time these sea gems are electrically driven. Meanwhile, we are investing on the innovation related to alternative propulsions such as hydrogen. In the next tree/five years the technical issues will be solved. The evolution of the brand Perini in turn proceeds towards a zero emissions model, with zero fuel on board like the Art Explora catamaran.
In any case for us, the sustainability is a broader concept that the Company embraces 360 degrees. It is not only about production processes nor propulsion. But approach to the territory, through cultural initiatives or training and support for young people, such as those who we carry on with the universities of Naples, Genoa and La Spezia. It is also a catalyst for positive relationships with employees and collaborators.
What does this mean, concretely?
In the shipyard of Marina di Carrara we have created an area, called “The Village”, intended for the well-being and the entertainment of shipowners, crews, owner teams of the yachts under maintenance or under construction, and employees, which includes a stylish Lounge Bar, a Restaurant, a Gym and a Spa.
Innovation calls for strong investments. How much do you put on the plate and what are the priorities?
In the last years we have started a massive investment plan that is worth 70 million euro plus the 80 million meant for the Perini acquisition, and it will ended in the first quarter of 2023. Since the beginning of the year, we have already invested four million, another seven/eight million are planned for the second half of the year.
The main project was the crucial expansion of the production capacity of Carrara, with two new sheds, a new dry dock 140 meters long and an additional 500 meters of quay.
We are investing another 1.8 million in the La Spezia and Viareggio sites. La Spezia will host the whole production chain connected to the partnership with Automobili Lamborghini, for the design and construction of “Tecnomar for Lamborghini 63”, the new motor yacht of the Tecnomar fleet, which will be built in edition limited. A parallel project is one with Giorgio Armani S.p.A. for the realization of some customized yachts with stylistic solutions and designs conceived, developed and defined with the team of Armani. After the summer we will formalize a third very important ultra-luxury partnership, now I can’t say more.
Product innovation, sustainability, personalization: these are all recurring themes also in a very different sector, such as that of wealth management. The recipe, ultimately, is it the same?
Maybe. But with an ultra-high net worth clientele, these concepts must be sublimated. We are dealing with customers demanding extreme levels of quality, attention to detail and customization.
Giovanni Costantino starts his entrepreneurial adventure in 1982 in the sector of construction and custom-made furniture. In 1997 he joined Natuzzi Spa, where he worked beside Pasquale Natuzzi for 11 years. In 2008 he returns to take on the role of entrepreneur, to commit himself, this time, to yachting. It is the year in which he acquires Tecnomar. In 2011 is the turn of the Admiral brand. In 2012 Costantino completed the acquisition of Nuovi Cantieri Apuania. With this operation, The Italian Sea Group is born.