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Olivier Poncin - “I have given myself another three years to consolidate the Catana and Bali brands “

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«I don’t really like to talk about myself». Uh-oh... we’ve had better starts to a Skype interview! False modesty? Perhaps he’s not a morning person? Or maybe he’s just a bit old fashioned: «I’m a bit of a boating dinosaur,» Olivier Poncin says. This hyperactive manager took his first steps in the world of yachting in 1983, the year he took over Kirié in Les Sables-d’Olonne with a group of friends. Five years later, he left the yard and sold his shares - with a turnover that had quadrupled. An effervescent businessman, known for his short temper, he excelled in all of the financial aspects and mastered the balance sheets and profit and loss accounts better than anyone else. Olivier bought Dufour in 1988. «The shipyard was struggling, with only 32 employees and a turnover of just 12 million francs. We took over Dynamique, Gibert Marine and then ACM. With Jacques Maillot (the then owner of Nouvelles Frontières travel agency) and Bruno Voisard, we created VPM Yachts Charter. Dufour was one of the suppliers of the company’s 150 yachts. We quickly sensed that there was an increasing demand for catamarans from among our clients.”

The Founding of Nautitech in 1993

In 1992, our interviewee was about to buy Catana. But the manufacturer’s financial results did not meet the terms previously agreed upon. «As a result, I created Nautitech”. Why that name? «It just came to me. With Mortain/Mavrikios, we first launched the 475 in 1994, then the 435 and the 395.” Up until 2001, when Olivier sold the shipyard, Dufour had produced more than 150 multihulls. In 13 years, the builder had multiplied its staff by 28 and its turnover by 50! Olivier Poncin then set himself the huge challenge of creating a new brand: Harmony. The financial crisis of 2008 would put a stop to this very ambitious project, but it did leave the legacy of a state-of-the-art factory in Marans, north of La Rochelle, on France’s Atlantic coast. In the meantime, however, there would be another dramatic turn of events: «In 2003, six years after relocating to Canet-en-Roussillon [in the south], Catana got into serious trouble and went into receivership. In the beginning, I was not motivated by turning a business around. It was after a discussion with a potential buyer of the company - who was ultimately unable to raise the necessary funds - that I became interested; I took over the staff, the buildings, the stock and the assets, but not Catana Location or Catana USA. The period between 2003 and 2010, was very challenging for me. I was based in La Rochelle and very busy with the Harmony project. Historically, Catana had never made any money. I managed to do a bit better at the beginning thanks to the stock effect of the recovery, but it inevitably became more complicated later on. Catana was a big shipyard in a small market. Even by optimizing production and recalibrating the personnel, the market just was not there, especially since the dollar exchange rate was no longer very favorable. ...

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