Asiamarine Grows with Fraser, Galeon and Bali Catamarans
Now in its third year as a Fraser representative, Asiamarine has also found time to expand to Vietnam, grow a lively charter business, increase Galeon sales and add Bali Catamarans to a colourful portfolio.
For a man representing Galeon, one of the world’s hottest motor yacht brands, and Fraser, one of the world’s leading superyacht brokerage houses, Eric Noyel carries a calm yet cautious air.
The Frenchman has good reason to feel assured. As founder and CEO of Asiamarine, Noyel oversees a full-service yachting company with almost 40 staff across Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, so has the depth and breadth to withstand the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.
In fact, Asiamarine has even been growing its portfolio and since June has been the dealer for France’s Bali Catamarans in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Thailand and Vietnam, in addition to representing Poland’s Galeon and American fishing boat brand Wellcraft.
“I’m very excited to bring Bali to Hong Kong because I believe their catamarans make sense for people who really enjoy being on the water,” says Noyel, who was born near the Bali headquarters in the south of France and named after French yachtsman Eric Tabarly.
“They make sense economically and are a great fit for Asia because the brand really focuses on space and square footage – and one thing Hong Kong people love is acquiring square feet! With Bali, clients get a lot of value for money in terms of square footage and enjoyment on the water.”
The Catspace is the first of several new Bali models in 2020; Asiamarine now represents Bali Catamarans in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Thailand and Vietnam
It’s the latest highlight for Asiamarine and Noyel, who has got a lot right in his time in yachting since founding the company in 2013 as a dealer for Numarine.
Stepping into the big league in early 2018, Asiamarine started representing Fraser in Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, yet he has since had to close the latter operation. He freely admits he has hit some hurdles along the way to establishing his company among Asia’s leading yacht-services companies.
“I have made some mistakes in trying to expand too fast without having the right people to manage the overseas operations,” says Noyel, who speaks French, English, German, Cantonese, Mandarin and even a bit of Italian.
“I also underestimated the amount of capital that needs to be deployed to establish a long-lasting business. It’s an expensive business to get into and you need to have solid back-up in order to survive the ups and downs of the industry.”
Noyel created Asiamarine after selling his company and seeking a challenge that would make the most of his network in Greater China and Southeast Asia. Based in Hong Kong, where its headquarters remain, he quickly showed his regional ambitions by opening an office in the Philippines in 2014, acquiring a stake in Thailand-based Asia Marine, then expanding to Vietnam last year.
As well as operating across multiple countries, Asiamarine manages multiple services ranging from new yacht sales and brokerage to charter, yacht management and fractional ownership, although each office has its different strengths.
“People make the business, so in Thailand, where we have a more technical team, the business has grown to be mostly a yacht management and charter business, about 50/50,” says Noyel, while admitting Covid-19 effectively shut down charter business at the Phuket office from March until yachting slowly re-emerged in June.
“In Hong Kong, our office is more sales oriented, more about brokerage and new sales, and charter is a side product. Covid-19 has had a strange effect because the charter business shot up while everybody was stuck in Hong Kong and looking for ways to escape the city and get out on the water. Although sales slowed down, many people sold their boats, so brokerage choices grew.
“Everything also slowed down in our smaller offices in Vietnam and the Philippines, where we’re more focused on brokerage and new boats, again more sales focused.”
Before opening an office in Ho Chi Minh City in June 2019, Noyel said Asiamarine had sold several boats in Vietnam, so recognised it as a growing yachting market.
“We have a small, very dynamic team in Vietnam that we’re supporting with technical resources flown in from Hong Kong or Thailand. The guys are young, motivated and experienced in high-end luxury, so are very comfortable with customers and networking,” Noyel says.
“Every day, we’re learning the ropes of doing business in Vietnam, which is a very exciting market with lots of momentum but has a long way to go because infrastructure is minimal.”
BRINGING EMERGING BRANDS TO ASIA
If Noyel likes emerging markets, he also likes emerging yacht brands and Asiamarine represents one
of the fastest-growing brands in cruising catamarans. Founded by the Catana Group in 2014, Bali
has rapidly expanded from building 15 units in 2015 to 140 last year and this year expects to produce
For Noyel, it’s like returning home when he visits the Catana Group’s headquarters in Canet-en-Roussillon on France’s south coast, close to the border with Spain, while the company also has facilities in La Rochelle on the west coast and even in Tunisia.
“The main factory is near my birthplace, so it’s easy for me to visit and see the boats. I feel a personal connection and almost an obligation to promote Bali because I feel like I’m doing something good for my hometown,” says Noyel, who’s expecting at least one new model to arrive in Hong Kong by the end of the year.
“I’ve always wanted to represent a catamaran brand and I really appreciate Bali’s drive for innovation. They’re beautifully designed, well-conceived, but as a brand, it’s new and not yet marketed at the level of some of its competitors, so there’s room for improvement.
“For me, Bali is a better boat and the management have done the hardest job, which is to get the brand off the ground, create smart concepts and get accepted by the market. Now, it’s just time for a little cosmetic improvement.”
Noyel has been down this road before. He has long ranked the quality of design and build of Galeon as good as if not better than its competitors, but admits that Asia-based buyers of luxury motor yachts take a lot of convincing to buy from outside western Europe.
Galeon, founded in 1982, is not as young as Bali, but it has only become a genuinely global brand in recent years. When Asiamarine started representing Galeon in 2016, it seemed a clever choice by Noyel but now it appears visionary.
That same year, the Polish brand partnered MarineMax – the world’s biggest yacht dealer – in the US, where the brand is now a market leader and now it’s seeking to compete with the world’s leading motor yacht builders across the globe.
“I always wanted to have a world-famous brand to sell because it just makes it easier to connect with the market, but now I’m very happy to refocus on Galeon, a less-glamorous brand but very popular,” says Noyel, whose company sold seven Galeon yachts last year.
“Today, Galeon is the leading brand in its sector in the US and I think we’re on our way to getting the same sort of success in Asia. Even though the recognition of Galeon is far behind the most famous brands, I think the product fits the market very well. They’re very good value, the innovations are much appreciated and it’s the right fit for our market.
“They’re also popular for first-time luxury motor yacht buyers and people upgrading from yachts built in Taiwan and China. We’ve even had people moving away from Italian and British boats to acquire more innovative, fun Galeon boats – people moving away from the ego boat to an enjoyable boat.”
JOINING THE BIG BOYS
If Noyel was pushing aggressively with emerging brands and into new markets in Asiamarine’s early
years, he made arguably his biggest move when he secured the licence to represent Fraser in Hong Kong and other key Asia markets in early 2018.
Fraser CEO Raphael Sauleau – and Yacht Style – attended the lavish launch party of the new partnership at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong, which established the brokerage as a regional competitor to Burgess and Camper & Nicholson, who both have strong teams across Asia.
Noyel estimates Fraser accounts for about half of his workload and has been surprised at how much time he has spent on product training with shipyards in Europe and learning about legal and other aspects of representing a global superyacht brokerage.
He works closely on the Fraser business with Adam Blackmore, Asiamarine’s Commercial Director. After two sales in 2019, the team kicked off this year with the sale of the 44m Odyssey built by Royal Denship.
“Adam and I work together on Fraser and both coordinate with their team in Monaco. Adam looks for the boats and I look for the clients. I do all the socialising and entertaining and networking,” Noyel laughs, “and Adam is very hands on, following up and looking at listings.
“Our Fraser superyacht brokerage has done as expected – not more, not less. We sold two last year and I think we’ll sell three or four this year, so it’s a nice, natural growth. In Thailand, the evolution has been slower because there’s less of a market there, but the team is managing more superyachts than ever and developing the superyacht charter business.”
CHARTER’S CHANGING FORTUNES
Charter is another business sector that has taken off for Asiamarine since 2018, due in large to hire of Laura Verbrugge.
This year, the energetic Charter Broker has overseen the company’s busiest-ever charter period in Hong Kong during the Covid-19 crisis and signed up Asia-based clients for superyacht charters in the Mediterranean.
“Laura has been frenetic, crazily active! She has travelled to all the shows like Monaco, Barcelona, Antigua, visited many of the superyachts available in the Med and Caribbean, and gained an incredible amount of experience of the charter business,” Noyel says.
“The market has tremendous growth potential and there’s definite interest, mainly from Hong Kong, about chartering in the Med. There were always people who could afford it, but the first time that people see a charter for US$200,000-$300,000 a week, they might get shocked. Once they’ve experienced it, though, many want to repeat the experience.
“Now, there’s a growing crowd of people that can afford and want to do it, so we’re introducing new charter clients and also arranging for repeat clients. The market has strong momentum and in my opinion, we are at the very beginning.”
Despite the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, Asiamarine is more than keeping its head above water and looking increasingly comfortable representing a brand as prestigious as Fraser.
Yet Noyel refuses to get carried away or overconfident, as he understands the risks and difficulties of keeping a successful yacht dealership and brokerage afloat, especially across multiple markets in a region as diverse as Asia.
“I’ve seen new competitors come and vanish every year. I see them just build a website, start with one customer, and then realise it takes more than that to have recurring business. Stock boats cost millions of Euros, so cash flow needs to be managed tightly, because it’s easy to overspend,” says Noyel, who envisions careful, calculated growth for Asiamarine.
“I will be much more prudent in expanding too fast in territories without an experienced manager or real opportunity that kick-starts an overseas branch. But I believe that we’ll become stronger where we have offices while developing cautiously into any new markets.”
The original article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below:
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Yacht Style has released Issue 54 (July-August), its Charter Issue for 2020. Flying Fox, the world's largest charter yacht, stars on the front cover of the 208-page magazine, as the 136m megayacht prepares to return to Asia later this year.