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Bridgepoint to sell Ponant to Artémis

Ponant, the specialist luxury cruise operator and market leader in specialist polar cruises, is to be sold by Bridgepoint to Artémis, the holding company of French entrepreneur Francois Pinault. The value of the transaction is not disclosed.

Headquartered in Marseilles, Ponant currently transports over 30,000 passengers per year to the polar regions and other locations, operating in the growing luxury cruise segment. It was acquired by Bridgepoint in 2012 from Groupe CMA CGM, the French container shipping company. Founded in 1988 and employing 189 personnel, Ponant has the youngest and best invested fleet in the market (currently five vessels with an average age of 2.5 years).

Under Bridgepoint ownership, the company has doubled sales to €140 million and tripled profits. This was achieved thanks to a combination of factors: 1) increasing and upgrading the capacity of the fleet by 11% p.a., boosted by the addition and funding of two new ships to the fleet and withdrawal of two older ones; 2) geographical expansion with opening of sales offices in China and Australia; and 3) the acquisition of TDI, a further sales distribution channel in the important North American cruise market.

Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, Co-Founder and President of Ponant, said: "We have worked well with Bridgepoint during a period of expansion for our business. In the last three years we have introduced our specialist luxury cruises to new customers, launched new ships and grown our business significantly. Today, we are entering a new period with a similar shareholder who shares our vision and ambition for Ponant within specialist luxury cruise market."

Xavier Robert, partner of Bridgepoint in Paris, said: "The transformation and progress achieved by the company have been outstanding and we are proud to have worked with the management team and contributed to its success. The planned transaction ensures the continuity of the company's ambitions with the acquisition of our interests by a likeminded long-term shareholder."

The transaction is subject to standard Works Council and other EU clearances.

Two innovative ships for Costa Cruises as part of multi billion contract with Meyer Werft

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Costa Cruises today announced an order to build two next-generation cruise ships, with the largest guest capacity in the world. They will feature a revolutionary “green design”: the two ships will be the first in the cruise industry (together with the two new ships previously announced for Aida Cruises, the German brand of Costa Group) to be powered at sea by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel, representing a major environmental breakthrough.

The two ships will be built by Meyer shipyard in Turku, Finland, with delivery in 2019 and 2020. Each of them will exceed 180,000 gross tonnage, offering more than 2,600 passenger cabins for a total of 6,600 passengers onboard.

Costa order is part of a multibillion dollar contract with two Meyer shipyards in Turku (Finland) and Papenburg (Germany), including also two new ships for Aida Cruises. The contract with Meyer is the result of a larger previously announced memo of understanding between Carnival Corporation & plc, the home company of Costa Group, and leading shipbuilders Meyer Werft, Meyer Turku and Fincantieri S.p.A. for nine new ships between 2019 and 2022.

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“These ships will expand the leadership position for the Costa Group, the market leader in all the major continental European markets,” said Michael Thamm, CEO of the Costa Group. “The multibillion dollar contract with Meyer mirrors our strategy to constantly innovate our vacation offers and to deliver unmatched cruise experience to our guests.”

“The two Costa ships are real innovation for the market, setting new standards for the whole industry: they will be the first green ships powered with LNG and they will offer an extensive number of guest-friendly features. Furthermore they will be the expression of the new positioning Italy's finest.” – explains Neil Palomba, President of Costa Cruises  – "The order also confirms that Costa brand will continue to grow, becoming even stronger and keep on generating a positive economic impact in the main countries where it operates, including Italy."

Pioneering a new era in the use of sustainable fuels, Costa new ships will be the first in the cruise industry to use LNG in dual-powered hybrid engines to power the ship both in port and on the open sea. LNG will be stored onboard the ships and used to generate 100 percent power at sea – producing another industry-first innovation for Costa. Using LNG to power the ships in port and at sea will significantly reduce exhaust emissions to help protect the environment and support the company’s aggressive sustainability goals.

“We are honoured that Costa Group has entrusted us with the technical design and construction of their next generation ships for Europe, featuring a revolutionary green cruising design implemented to meet specific Costa Group’s needs.” - commented Jan Meyer CEO of Meyer Turku Oy and added: “We are building the ships with a strong team in Turku and with the support of mostly European suppliers, who are the best in their field. Among those leading suppliers, there are also a number of Italian companies, which we have worked well with in Finland as well as in Germany. We are aiming to continue this successful legacy.”  

The new order represents a remarkable opportunity also for Italy. According to Costa Cruises forecast, about 750 Italian crewmembers are expected to be hired to work on the two ships. Furthermore Italy will be featured in the onboard guest experience: the new ships will be ambassadors of Italy’s finest at seas, allowing thousand of international guests to discover the excellence of the Country in terms of style, hospitality and enogastronomic specialities, entertainment.

The new ship order will allow the Costa Group to continue to build on its leadership position in the continental European cruise market – a market in which five out of ten cruise guests in 2014 sailed onboard a Costa Group ship.

Carnival Corporation expands fleet in China to an industry-leading six ships in 2016

Carnival Corporation & plc, the world's largest travel and leisure company, today announced it will add two ships to its China fleet in 2016, making it the first global cruise company with six total ships based in China. The move will increase Carnival Corporation's total capacity in China by an additional 58 percent in 2016, further accelerating the company's leadership position in the growing Chinese market, which continually delivers double-digit annual returns and is expected to eventually become the largest cruise market in the world.

Carnival Corporation's fleet of six China-based ships will include expanded offerings from its two leading brands in the market – Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises – that are each adding one new ship to meet growing cruise demand in China. Across the two brands, Carnival Corporation will have three year-round ships and three seasonal ships in the market, representing the largest cruise presence in China in 2016.

Together, the Costa and Princess brands will potentially offer about four million passenger cruise days in 2016, giving Chinese guests more choice and flexibility in both the contemporary and luxury segments. Based on the accelerating consumer demand for cruises in China, Carnival Corporation's added capacity is expected to significantly increase the company's total number of cruise passengers in China in 2016.

Included in this new deployment is today's announcement made during a press conference in Beijing that Princess Cruises will send its Golden Princess ship to northern China in 2016, sailing out of Tianjin on a seasonal basis, with itineraries visiting a variety of desirable destinations in northern Asia. Golden Princess joins the brand's first China-based ship, Sapphire Princess, which has been homeported in Shanghai since 2014 and will start sailing year-round in China in 2016. The brand's two-ship deployment in 2016 will more than double its total available guest capacity in China compared to 2015, putting Princess Cruises in an even stronger position to serve the luxury cruise segment with its exclusive Princess Class experience designed specifically for the Chinese market.

Costa Cruises, a leading cruise brand in China and the first global cruise brand to introduce cruising to the market in 2006, recently announced it will debut Costa Fortuna in April 2016 as its fourth ship based in China. Costa Fortuna joins Costa Serena, Costa Atlantica and Costa Victoria already based in China, increasing the brand's total available capacity in China by 43 percent in 2016.

"Our Costa and Princess brands are performing extremely well in China, and these new ship deployments will strengthen our growth position and enable us to carry nearly one million passengers in 2016, as we continue executing our plan to meet surging consumer demand for cruising in China," said Alan Buckelew, chief operations officer for Carnival Corporation. "As momentum accelerates in the market, we have a significant opportunity to increase cruising demand amongst China's growing middle class and a new generation of Chinese travelers who are hungry for new vacation experiences."

Buckelew added: "Our focus is on exceeding guest expectations on every ship and really tailoring our product for Chinese tastes, which helps create new advocates and spread the joy of cruising in China. Through our brands, our expanding operations and our potential joint ventures in China, we're excited to play a lead role in helping China become one of the world's leading cruise markets."

In addition to expanding its industry-leading presence in China in 2016, Carnival Corporation recently announced that the latest ship under construction for its Princess brand will be based in China year-round when introduced in summer 2017. Based in Shanghai, the ship will be the first year-round international luxury vessel designed and built specifically for Chinese guests.

Carnival Corporation is also exploring potential joint ventures in China with China Merchants Group (CMG) and China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) designed to accelerate the growth of the overall cruise industry in China, including the possibility of launching a world-class Chinese domestic cruise brand, building new ships in China, and supporting port and infrastructure development. These efforts support Carnival Corporation's commitment to help China realize its goal to develop cruising as a key economic driver for its economy and become one of the leading cruise markets in the world.

Exit from Norwegian to markedly lift Genting Hong Kong earnings

Genting Hong Kong, the owner of Star Cruises and Crystal Cruises, says its first half 2015 interims will soar to about $2,100 million from $142 million in the same period last year, lifted by gains from its gradual exit as shareholder of Norwegian Cruise Line Holding (NCLH).

“The board of directors of the Company wishes to inform the shareholders, investors and potential investors of the Company that, based on the preliminary assessment of the latest unaudited financial information, excluding the share of results of NCLH and Travellers, the Group is expected to record a net profit of not less than US$2,100 million for the half year ended 30 June 2015, as compared with a net profit, excluding the share of results of NCLH and Travellers, of approximately US$142.2 million for the half year ended 30 June 2014,’ Genting said in a statement.

“Such expected increase in net profit is mainly attributable to a number of factors, including: (i) a total gain of US$599.6 million arising from disposals of certain stakes in NCLH, as disclosed in the Company’s announcements dated 9 March 2015 and 21 May 2015 (30 June 2014: US$152.6 million); (ii) a one-off accounting gain of US$1,567.4 million recognised upon completion of a secondary offering of NCLH’s ordinary shares following which the Group’s interest in NCLH deceased from approximately 22.0% to approximately 17.7% and the Group ceased to account for its share of results and net assets of NCLH as an “associate” but as an “available-for-sale investment” on 26 May 2015,” Genting stated.

The gain is calculated based on the difference between the market value of NCLH shares owned by the Group as at 26 May 2015 and the carrying value of such NCLH shares in the Group’s consolidated financial statements; (iii) the absence of a fair value gain of US$14.4 million arising from the mark-to-market revaluation of certain financial assets; and (iv) increase in foreign exchange loss of approximately US$19.4 million mainly attributable to depreciation of certain foreign currency-denominated bank balances against US dollar.

In addition, the Group also expects its EBITDA for the half year ended 30 June 2015 to increase compared with that of the corresponding period in 2014 mainly because of the maiden contribution from Crystal Cruises, LLC and an improvement in the Group’s underlying cruise business despite a softer overall gaming performance arising from weakness in the regional gaming industry.

Cruise tourism grows in Malta

Cruise passenger statistics published today for the period April – June 2015 show a very healthy growth of 66.4% when compared to the same period last year. The number of cruise liners calling in the Maltese Islands also grew from 89 calls in April to June 2014 to 108 calls in the same period this year.

This excellent performance in the second quarter of the year results in a cumulative 39.9% increase for the first 6 months of year when compared to January to June 2014.

Malta’s cruise sector is once again on a growth curve particularly as a result of a number of positive initiatives, foremost amongst which is the performance of the MSC and Costa lines with more regular calls and larger ships together with the extended season of the TUI home-porting operation from Valletta harbour.

The positive performance of Q2 2015 translated in the increase of 81,860 cruise passengers to reach a total of 205,224 cruise passengers for the three months.  

In the period under review, the second quarter of 2015, impressive growth has been particularly registered from a number of important markets, namely Germany (+ 333.4% or 38,268 more passengers), Italy (+49.7% or 11,134 more passengers) and Spain (+337.4% or 7,045 more passengers). Smaller markets such as the Australian (+84.1% or 3,067 more passengers), the US (+10.3% or 1,272 more passengers) and the Japanese market (+272.7% or 1,017 more passengers) have also featured healthy double digit increases.

The Malta Tourism Authority is very satisfied with these results.  MTA CEO Paul Bugeja stated that, “Apart from the immediate benefits of cruise passengers’ spending in Malta’s economy particularly in Valletta and Grand Harbour business communities, the fact that such a large number are visiting our islands for a few hours allows us to showcase what Malta can offer and address many misconceptions that anybody who does not know Malta today, may have. Many of these day visitors tend to come back to our shores for a longer holiday shortly after visiting.”

Cruise line companies costumer surveys confirm that Malta is a strong selling point for their itineraries and cruise planners are choosing to include Malta and Gozo for the smaller ships, in line with customers requests and interests.