GB-EN Intermediary

Superyachts and global economics

We explain how browsing the pages of Boat International gives us an insight on the global economy.
April 2019

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Every so often we like to visit the world of superyachts, as revealed in the pages of the monthly superyacht ‘bible’ Boat International. Why? It tells us whether the ultra-super-rich are still spending freely or battening down the hatches. The Global Financial Crisis sent a cruel wind through the leisure boating market and it took many years to regain its vigour. Long lead-times for ‘new-builds’ mean that economic conditions encountered when an order is approaching completion can be very different from those prevailing when the order is placed.

During the GFC, many ‘new-builds’ were mothballed as financing collapsed. Potential owners simply walked away, foregoing substantial deposits. Many boat-builders went to the wall – including some long-established and respected names.

Risk Disclaimer

Views and opinions have been arrived at by BMO Global Asset Management and should not be considered to be a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any companies that may be mentioned.

The information, opinions, estimates or forecasts contained in this document were obtained from sources reasonably believed to be reliable and are subject to change at any time.

What’s the current status?

In 2018, the brokerage market chalked up sales of 434 superyachts with a total asking price of €4.26 billion. To save you working it out, that equates to an average asking price of €9.8 million. In the previous 12 months, the average asking price was €8.8 million and 438 yachts changed hands (a total of €3.86 billion). In 2016 the total was “just” €3.37 billion.

In 2018, 12 yachts measuring more than 70 metres (231 feet) were sold, up from eight in the previous year.


This market is in rude health, which immediately causes a rapid increase in our patented palpitation index. When the super-rich are spending at this rate on totally indulgent luxury items, it smacks of the tail end of a boom. Superyachts are a classic lagging indicator. This market descends into the mire sometime after the rest of the world has figured out times are not what they were.

The super-rich tend to be compulsive market “players”. In other words, they have lots going on and using age-old financial wisdom generally do so using someone else’s money. When the economic cycle turns sharply down, some of the balls in the air thud painfully to earth. What to do? Well, you sell your third or fifth house and (reluctantly) put your floating pride and joy on the market.

How long before balls start thudding to earth? Perhaps another year or two. Perhaps not. If you really fancy yourself reclining in luxury on your own 100-metre slice of indulgence, we suggest that there may be a few cut-price bargains around in the next few years. That is, if you can call something a bargain that takes half a million dollars or more to fill with fuel before you leave the dock. Then again, you could just charter one for a week and write the astronomical charter cost off as a deposit on a dream.

Use our handy glossary to look up any technical jargon.

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