With nine acquisitions in 2021, Sweden’s Dometic Group was one of the busiest M&A players, continuing the company’s drive to diversify away from a legacy reliance on Recreational Vehicle and Marine OEMs into the outdoor leisure sector, aftermarket channels, and direct to consumer sales with own-branded products.
Patrick Industries, a component maker, was also in the running for most active participants, with eight acquisitions, several of which boosted its Marine portfolio from 3% of sales to 16% by the end of 2021.
T-H Marine added four more brands to its portfolio before being bought by OneWater Marine, a retail boat group. This was the company’s second noteworthy expansion into the parts and accessories market and the continuous expansion of its dealer network. Lippert acquisitions contributed $23 million – or 49% – of growth in the company’s marine business through Q3 2021.
In 2021, the boatbuilding industry saw several notable transactions, including the sale of several iconic brands – such as Hatteras Yachts and Cigarette Racing boats – and the widely publicized rescue of Italy’s Perini Navi yacht builder, a brand with assets the industry didn’t want to lose but couldn’t decide how to value. The boating industry has long seen a tendency of all kinds of investors rushing in to preserve a much-loved but economically failed brand, frequently consisting of affluent owners who trust their business instincts but undervalue the complexity of the boat market and the skill of profitable boat manufacturing. Fairline Yachts is an example of a well-known brand with a series of owners who have failed to realize its full potential.
The vertical integration of the world’s largest boat retailer and broker, MarineMax, taking up a direct presence in boatbuilding with the acquisition of Cruisers Inc “to fill a vacuum in its portfolio” was possibly the most fascinating deal last year. Later in the year, MarineMax acquired a second maker to its inventory, Barletta Pontoon Boats, demonstrating that it was not merely dabbling in boatbuilding.
Boat Dealers & Marinas
This is a sector where there are clear synergies between boating customers and the local businesses that sell, maintain, and store their boats and offer related accessories to enhance both the product and the experience – blurring the lines between boat dealers, marina services, and P&A suppliers. Given that many of these companies were once small, family-operated firms led by seasoned enthusiasts – and that they also had to deal with seasonal cash flow and labor difficulties – the market has long been ripe for consolidation. Introduce two significant industry giants – MarineMax and OneWater – with vast money, marketing power, and strategic goals, and you have the recipe for an outright purchasing frenzy, which has been going on for some years.
In 2021, there were around 50 deals in this industry, both big and small, with several repeat players. However, given many of these transactions’ modest scale and local character, they are likely to go unnoticed. Southern Marinas, Suntex Marinas, OneWater, and MaxMarine are among the leading players in these two cross-over categories, as revealed by the sort button on our interactive table below.
Boat Dealerships & Marinas
Boat and charter clubs, yet another growth that has evolved among local, small-scale firms established and managed by long-time boating enthusiasts, are another increasingly active field for acquisitions in the maritime sector. But that has all changed thanks to one of the most popular consumer trends in the last five years: shared access boating models, which are similar to timeshare vacation condominiums and ski chalets, and a well-established core of sail charter companies. The burgeoning growth in boat timeshares, boat charter groups, and boat membership clubs allow consumers to enjoy their favorite pastimes in various locations without the burdens of ownership. All of this is made much easier by the internet, which will enable people to search options, availability, pricing, and make bookings anywhere in the world with a few clicks.
Brunswick Corporation, via the establishment of Freedom Boat Club in the United States and increasingly in Europe, is the major player in this field. In Japan, Yamaha Motor maintains a comparable operation, and Beneteau boosted its investment in the market in 2021.
Boat Clubs, Charter Groups
In 2021, there was a flurry of mergers and acquisitions among equipment distributors and merchants, with activity extending to notable online marine equipment stores and a slew of rival boat listing services operating across national borders. Other groups that recognized the rationale for joining forces in 2021 included several boat insurance brokers.