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Chinese company set to buy Sunseeker

Sunseeker, Britain's largest luxury yacht builder, is set to be sold to Chinese property group Dalian Wanda for 300 million pounds, or about $465.9 million.

Dalian Wanda is closing in on a deal to buy Sunseeker, according to the (U.K.) Daily Mail.

“We bought the best yacht company in the U.K.,” Dalian Wanda chairman and founder Wang Jianlin told the Financial Times, although he did not name Sunseeker.

The planned acquisition of the yacht builder, which is based in Poole, Dorset, highlights the growing number of Chinese companies seeking to acquire top-end brands and technology from America and Europe. Wanda last year bought the U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion. In 2011, Shandong Heavy Industry Group bought Italian yacht builder Ferretti, the parent company of Riva, Bertram and Pershing.

If the Sunseeker deal goes ahead, Wanda is expected to keep all of the manufacturing and design operations in Poole, protecting the jobs of the 2,500 people the yacht builder employs in the area, the Daily Mail reported.

In December, Italian yacht builder Wider announced that it was selling half its stake to EXA Ltd., a company that refers to Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman and chief executive of the Malaysian-based Genting Group, Soundings Trade Only reported.

Last July, 321 Capital Partners LLC said it had sold Tennessee-based fiberglass sportboat builder Ebbtide Corp. to a privately held Chinese investment company.

“Selling your company that you have been operating for 44 years is bittersweet,” Ebbtide president and former owner Tommy Trabue said in a statement. “There comes a time when you need to transition yourself to a different position. Ebbtide has been my life all these years, and I am proud of our record of designing and manufacturing excellent boats.”

The Sunseeker deal would represent a major turnaround for the company, which makes about 50 boats a year, after it came close to disaster three years ago. The group had a loss of 9?million pounds, or nearly $14 million, in 2010 after the banking crisis took its toll and broke the terms of its bank loan.

After a refinancing agreement that was backed by Dublin-based investment group FL Partners, the company returned to a profit, announcing that orders were already up for 2013.

Click here for the Daily Mail report.

Click here for the Financial Times report (behind a paywall).

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