Genting to buy luxury Crystal Cruises for $550 million

The acquisition agreement expands Genting’s current cruise portfolio.
The acquisition agreement expands Genting’s current cruise portfolio.

The Asian gaming giant that purchased the former Miami Herald bayfront site in downtown is set for another surprise purchase: California-based luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises.

The acquisition agreement expands Genting’s current cruise portfolio, which includes 28 percent of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. The parent company, which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, last fall purchased the company that includes premium line Oceania Cruises and luxury line Regent Seven Seas. Genting wholly owns Star Cruises, a major Asian cruise line.

The acquisition, from Crystal parent Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), is expected to closed in the second quarter of 2015, according to a news release. Under the deal, Genting Hong Kong, a subsidiary of publicly held Genting Group, will pay $550 million in cash, or $276,000 per lower berth.

Genting plans to add a new ship to the Crystal fleet, which currently has only two ships. The line is known for high-quality dining and service, and has won numerous industry and consumer awards.

Genting also owns Resorts World Bimini, a resort and casino in the Bahamas, and the Bimini SuperFast, a ferry sailing from PortMiami to Bimini. The ferry offers frequent discounts through social sites — an indicator that it is struggling to fill the day-cruiser. The company also operates a casino in the New York City borough of Queens and has been lobbying for change in Florida law to allow destination gambling resorts on non-tribal lands. It also owns resorts in Asia and is a partner in Universal Studios in Singapore.

Edie Rodriguez, president and COO of Crystal Cruises, lauded the ownership change. In a statement, she noted that fleet expansion would increase itinerary options and accommodation choices. Crystal’s two ships have been renovated in recent years; a new ship has long been rumored.

Genting plans to retain current management, according to a statement by Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman, CEO and acting president of GHK.

UBS Investment Research analyst Robin Farley wrote in a note to investors that she believes the purchase could be good for the industry.

“We believe it'll also make for a healthier competitive environment to now have three of the four luxury brands owned by public [companies] that view such assets as a business that needs to make money rather than a trophy property,” she wrote.

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said Tuesday that he wishes Genting well in its expansion.

“They’ve bought a very prestigious brand, and we think that anytime attention is brought on the luxury space, it helps us through Regent Seven Seas and the fact that we’re building the most luxurious cruise ship ever built,” he said, referring to the upcoming Seven Seas Explorer. “That’s testimony that the world of luxury cruising is robust and that it is global, and that could only help us as we add ships to our fleet.”

Miami Herald staff writer Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.