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5 Questions with… MB92 president Pepe García-Aubert and Squircle Capital's José Caireta

Business
Written by
Elodie Behravan

Following its acquisition by Squircle Capital this autumn, the Barcelona-based refit yard MB92 has continued to provide its superyacht clients with refit, repair and maintenance services in its Barcelona and La Ciotat facilities. With 77.5% now belonging to the European alternative investment firm Squircle Capital, the MB92 Group is expected to further grow and strengthen its position as a market leader over the upcoming years. To find out more about this new partnership, we sat down with Squircle Capital’s founding partner José Caireta and President and CEO of the MB92 Group Pepe García-Aubert to discuss the changes we can expect to see from this new collaboration.
Pepe García-Aubert Photo: MB92 Group

SYT: What initially enticed you to invest in the MB92 Group? 

José Caireta: Since we’re originally from Barcelona, we know the market and the port very well. We have been following some of the companies in the port for about eight years and knew the situation of Doğuş and MB92, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to approach the company. 

We firmly believed that MB92 had a lot of potential, and obviously since its merger with La Ciotat our interest incremented. The management had been extremely successful in growing the company over the past three years and in launching the shiplift in Barcelona and another one in La Ciotat in 2022. As long-term investors, we looked at the business plan and liked the growth that they were expecting for the next five years. We also like the sector: the maritime sector is one we are definitely interested in long-term, so that was a package deal for us.Yachts at the MB92 Barcelona shipyardPhoto: MB92

SYT: Tell us more about the kind of investment this is. What can we expect from this new partnership?

José Caireta: We’re not the typical private equity firm, because we focus on the long-term value and on critical aspects of innovative businesses such as the integration of environmental sustainability in all the value cycle. Obviously, if we double in five years we’re happy, but we’re not in a hurry. We have to do it step-by-step. We want stability for the business to steadily become the market leader so we’re also always open for the management to come and tell us about potential consolidating ideas. 

Pepe García-Aubert: You can see this investment as a continuation of the project that we started a few years ago. Back then, the first step was to become international, and the opportunity to be with Doğuş was the absolute step forward to becoming an international facility. The second step was to consolidate Barcelona and La Ciotat with the necessary tools for industry growth.

There are few docking solutions in the Mediterranean with enough capacity for 70 to 120-metre boats so that’s something we can offer through our investments. In Barcelona it’s already a reality with our 4,800-tonne shiplift in operation, so the next important investment will be in La Ciotat where we have signed a 35-year lease on the new 4000-tonne platform, a 45 million euro investment, similar to the amount that we have invested in Barcelona. So, that’s where we are now and we are hopeful for the future with our new partners.MB92 shipliftPhoto: MB92

SYT: Do you see a better synergy between the marina and the yard as well in the future?

Pepe García-Aubert: Yes, absolutely. If you look at Rybovich Marina, for instance, it’s the perfect example of this. A yacht might need to go into a marina for a few weeks or months in the winter because she requires assistance. Maybe she has to go out of the water, maybe she gets some interior work done or some maintenance work to her systems and other little jobs… That’s why having a marina as a neighbour makes our lives much easier, and if the marina is successful, that’s even better. 

We travel to visit clients wherever they may be to prepare yard stays, so having 40 or 50 big yachts moored in Barcelona has obvious benefits for both the client and us in terms of cost, logistics, communication and efficiency.MB92 La Ciotat shipyardPhoto: MB92 La Ciotat

SYT: Are you mainly focused on the high-end big yachts?

Pepe García-Aubert: I wouldn’t say that our focus lies solely on the high-end yachts but covers the whole range as we understand that for the owner, their yacht is a prized possession regardless of the size. Our focus is on providing the same valued service to the owner of a 30-metre yacht as to the owner of a 100-metre yacht. What I would say is that the industry is generally not well-equipped to cater for yachts at the larger end of the spectrum, so we are able to fill spaces as we can satisfy the needs of these larger yachts as we have the necessary tools, experience and knowledge to do so.Yachts at the MB92 Barcelona shipyardPhoto: MB92
SYT: A lot of shipyards are currently making investments in the refit sector. Do you think that is sustainable in the future and do you see a lot of growth in the refit market? 

Pepe García-Aubert: Well, the answer is yes. The fleet is growing all the time and so it is definitely the time for some serious investments, but it is not easy to find 40-50 million euros. A lot of investments are being announced in the market so we will see what the reality of these will be. We have to look at the builder’s market, which is growing amazingly, and especially in the size of these vessels. When we launch our new yacht lift in La Ciotat three years from now there will probably be another 40-50 new boats so that’s definitely a major opportunity for us! MB92 La Ciotat shipyardPhoto: MB92 La Ciotat

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