Apollo: Buying Mood

Apollo (Management) is still in an acquisition mode, said Adam Aron, senior operating partner, in a one-on-one interview with Cruise Industry News, “if the right opportunity comes along.”

“A fourth cruise line is a possibility, and the scope is not limited to the U.S. For now, however, it may be wise to take a deep breath and focus on the three lines we already own,” he added.

Having acquired Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and most recently, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Aron said Apollo has a $2 billion equity commitment in the industry, and its acquisitions have an enterprise value of $7 billion.

Over the past 20 years, Apollo has generated an annual return of 40 percent on its investments, Aron said, and expects nothing less for its cruise projects.

“We have invested in the cruise industry with the same degree of confidence as we have seen the industry for the past 35 years,” Aron said. “This will continue to be a growth industry for decades.”

Aron said that each brand must be seen separately, each with its own unique opportunities, challenges and potential. Apollo’s objective is to maximize the potential of each.

NCL is already on a good path, according to Aron, who said “there is a lot of success embedded in the brand.”

Having just introduced the Norwegian Gem, NCL’s newest ship, the Norwegian Jade will be transferred from Hawaii to Europe this spring, and two new and larger ships are under construction. The new F-3 class will also drive profitability, he said.

Aron listed three keys to increasing NCL’s profitability: first is basic growth; second is turning Hawaii around, and third is to increase demand to drive prices higher. Every dollar more per day per passengers will send millions to the bottom line, he said.

“Today, we have the most modem fleet in the industry, and we must capitalize on that fleet advantage,” Aron said.

At the same time, NCL is introducing a new level of its Freestyle Cruising concept, called Freestyle 2.0, with significant product upgrades across the fleet, including spending $50 million more on food every year.

Under the Apollo umbrella, NCL is in the contemporary market with 12 ships and two more under construction, Oceania is in the premium market with two ships and two under construction, and Regent Seven Seas is in the luxury market with three ships of its own ships and two under charter.

Regent Seven Seas, which will be fully held by Apollo once the deal is completed and Oceania, in which Apollo holds a 62 percent interest, will be placed under the ownership of Prestige Cruise Holdings, a corporation controlled by Apollo.

However, NCL, in which Apollo holds a 50 percent interest, but controls the board, will remain a separate holding.

Both Regent and Oceania will continue to operate as independent brands with separate managements and offices. Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas, and Bob Binder, president of Oceania, will report to Frank Del Rio, who has been named chairman and CEO of Prestige. For Regent Seven Seas, new ownership is also expected to mean new ships.

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