Published: Friday, 26 April 2013
Mike Fulton

John Lu, CEO of Horizon, has it good since his company has grown to become Asia’s largest yacht builder. Talking from onboard the Tango 5, a 115-foot superyacht, moored in Singapore’s Keppel Marina at recent Boat Asia show, he said Horizon is in a strong position to capitalise on the region’s growing wealth. Tango 5 is staying in Singapore as it was commissioned by a local client.

Horizon Yachts Take On The China Market

Horizon had three superyachts on display at this year’s show, including the 120-foot Muses and the equally impressive Amadeus, a 90 footer.

While much of the talk around the show was about tapping into China’s expanding army of millionaires and billionaires, Lu was quick to downplay the excitement, saying: “I think the growth of the Chinese boat-buying market has been exaggerated. Yes it is getting bigger but not that big. The culture is just not there yet. Yachts are bought more for entertaining than for sailing in China.”

Instead, Lu is looking at promising markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Horizon’s major strength is its ability to custom-make a boat from scratch, something Asia’s wealthy sailors value a great deal. This is what sets Horizon apart from European boat builders who tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach, Lu feels.

“Rich people have such diverse tastes. They have their own unique opinions and needs and we have to respect that. It could be large diving areas, Jacuzzis or karaoke bars. No two buyers are the same," added Lu.

The big questions is 'what’s next for Horizon?', which is now firmly entrenched among the world’s top 10 largest yacht makers?

‘We want a better market share and more exposure. That’s why we attend so many boat shows. The Italians and other Europeans have been building boats more than 100 years and so we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Lu. But with European yacht makers struggling, the likes of Horizon are poised to pounce. “This is a critical time for Asian yacht makers. We have such a good opportunity to build boats for Western markets although it is still a tough job,” he commented.

Some 40 per cent of Horizon’s clients are Asian and this is still the main focus. That percentage is proably going to grow as China’s rapid economic expansion creates more wealth across Asia. Of Horizon’s buyers, about one third of them come back to the yard to upgrade and refit their yachts. Many clients visit the Horizon yard as often as five times during the build process to check on progress.