Hagen says Viking has ample access to capital, 'ambitious plan' for China

Torstein Hagen - If Viking's European river cruises for Mandarin-speakers are successful, an ocean-cruise product could follow (Photo: Anne Kalosh) Torstein Hagen - If Viking's European river cruises for Mandarin-speakers are successful, an ocean-cruise product could follow (Photo: Anne Kalosh)

Chairman Torstein Hagen called the joint $500m investment by TPG Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for a combined 17% stake in Viking Cruises 'a good beginning,' suggesting further equity infusions may come.

'They could be private. They could be public,' he told Seatrade Cruise News, adding: 'We have good access to capital.'

Hagen maintained the new investors haven't changed the way he runs Viking. Each has a seat on Viking's board, and he welcomes that. After 20 years of running the company, 'It's good to have someone from the outside' to give perspective.

The additional capital is useful for embarking on Viking's China project. Hagen indicated that goes beyond the pair of European river vessels that will be designated for Mandarin-speakers with a fully customized product.

Viking expects to learn a lot from that operation and, if it's successful, an ocean product could be developed, too.

'It could be big. It could be difficult. But we'll see. We have an ambitious plan,' Hagen said.

As with the river vessels, any ocean ships would be separate from those carrying English speakers. Viking doesn't believe in 'mixed [language] ships.'

The company is managing its Mandarin-speaking staffing from Basel, where a German hotelier with China experience who's a veteran of Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton is working with contacts in China.

Viking is now pulling in nearly $2bn in revenues. The company fields 59 river cruise vessels and has two ocean ships in service. Two more Longships for the rivers will be introduced in 2017, along with ocean ships Viking Sky (set for delivery in February) and Viking Sun (October). Viking Spirit comes in June 2018, followed by an unnamed newbuild in March 2019 that was moved forward a year.

Hagen suggested ocean newbuilds beyond that would use the same design platform. Once a consideration, LNG propulsion is not in the cards. It's too costly, he said. The Viking ships do have scrubbers, and further environmental advances are being studied.

Posted 18 October 2016

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review