Last updated: 05:52 PM ET, Mon August 10 2015

A New Billionaire Owner for Ponant?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Ponant | Theresa Norton | July 27, 2015

A New Billionaire Owner for Ponant?

PHOTO: Ponant operates four luxury cruise ships and one three-masted sailing ship. (Courtesy of Ponant)

Ponant, the luxury French cruise line, could be getting a new owner.

The seller, an investment company called Bridgepoint, confirmed it is in exclusive talks with Artemis SA, which is controlled by the French billionaire Pinault family. The value of a transaction has not been disclosed, although reports from Europe estimated Ponant is worth more than $400 million.

Bridgepoint acquired Ponant in 2012 from Groupe CMA CGM, the French container shipping company. Founded in 1988 and employing 189 personnel, Ponant has a fleet of five vessels with an average age of 2.5 years.

Bridgepoint said Ponant has doubled sales to €140 million and tripled profits by expanding the fleet, opening sales offices in China and Australia, and acquiring Travel Dynamics International, thereby adding another sales distribution channel in the North American market.

“We have worked well with Bridgepoint during a period of expansion for our business,” said Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, co-founder and president of Ponant. “Today, we are entering a new period with a similar shareholder who shares our vision and ambition for Ponant within specialist luxury cruise market.”

In the U.S., Ponant markets its luxury adventure voyages as Ponant Yacht Cruises and Expeditions. It operates four 244-guest ice-rated sister ships, which often explore the polar regions, as well as the 64-passenger sailing yacht Le Ponant.

The newest ship, Le Lyrial, entered service earlier this year. It joins sisters L’Austral, Le Boreal and Le Soleal, which were delivered in May 2010, April 2011, and June 2013, respectively. The ships fly the French flag.

In January, Ponant named travel industry veteran Navin Sawhney as COO of its U.S. headquarters.

The company was formerly known as Compagnie du Ponant, but shortened its name to Ponant in September.

Founded in 1992 by French entrepreneur François Pinault, Artemis SA is a holding company that manages a range of companies in France and abroad. For over 20 years, Artemis has been the controlling shareholder of Kering, parent of such luxury brands as Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and more.

Pinault’s son, François-Henri Pinault, is now chairman of the board of Artemis SA and is married to actress Salma Hayek.

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