By David Robinson

The purchase of a 55% stake in IAG Yachts by Sunbird Yachts, China’s only publicly listed yacht-builder, has been confirmed to SB by a Sunbird spokesperson. The cost of the acquisition is reportedly RMB 110m (around US$18m), with this comprising RMB 60m in cash and RMB 50m in stock.

Information about this transaction first came to light in April, when the news was that Sunbird would acquire a 70% or 75% stake in IAG Yachts.

The acquisition of the IAG stake is understood by SB to be part of a wider initiative to strengthen and enhance the superyacht capability of Zhuhai and the Pingsha Town yacht-building area, where a number of yards including Jet Tern, McConaghys and Hershine have their facilities.

NISI Yachts Group/Tricon Marine are also known to be part of the Sunbird deal, but exactly how has not yet been clarified. Reports received by SB suggest that the NISI/Tricon yard and facilities have been acquired also by Sunbird but this has not been confirmed.

Despite being a publicly listed company SB could find no information of this deal being placed with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Market speculation from various SB sources in the Pearl River Delta area of southern China suggest that one reason for this M&A activity is to appease Sunbird shareholders who were reportedly unhappy with its performance.

Sunbird Yachts was established in 2003 and it operates three new building facilities in Hunan Province at Yuanjiang City, and at Zhuhai and Foshan in Guangdong. It also has a number of associate companies both in China, Hong Kong and the US. Marco Polo Yachts, a subsidiary based in Italy, is seemingly no longer active as its website domain is now available.

Apart from yachts, Sunbird also builds smaller commercial and military vessels but the loss of a government contract is understood to be part of the shareholders’ disquiet over the performance of the group. In 2010 Sunbird had a successful IPO, during which 22 million shares were issued.

The latest superyacht from IAG is currently in Hong Kong awaiting transport by Sevenstar to the US. She is the 41.1m (135ft) IAG 135 custom superyacht King Baby, built for a US client. King Baby is the first of a new series called the Noble Star 140 and she includes naval architecture by Sergio Cutolo of HydroTec and an interior by Evan K Marshall. She is to be shown at FLIBS in November.