Essilor International SA (EPA: EI) (Euronext Paris), the world’s leading ophthalmic optics company, has acquired Vision Direct Group Ltd, Europe’s leading online contact lens retailers, with revenue of around £33 million in 2015.
This move further strengthens Essilor International’s current positions in online optical retail in Europe, by complementing existing activities in the Nordic countries.
Vision Direct’s existing management team, headed by Michael Kraftman, CEO, will remain in place after Essilor’s acquisition, and will leverage Essilor International’s know-how to continue growing the Vision Direct business, by broadening its optical products offering and further expanding its geographic footprint.
Vision Direct is Europe’s largest online optical retailer of contact lenses, solutions and eye care products. The company grew as a result of multiple mergers and venture funding rounds during the past decade. Vision Direct is based in London, with websites in Italy, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain. The company was founded in 2004 as Optical Partners plc, a small High Street retail business trading as PostOptics, headed by Kraftman. In September 2009, early-stage and growth specialist Octopus Ventures invested £1.355 million into GetOptics which resulted from the merger of GetLenses with PostOptics, forming the UK’s largest web-based contact lens and eye care products business, trading under the merged brand GetLenses.
In Feb. 2014, UK-based GetLenses acquired Dutch online retailers Vision Direct and Lensbase, which sell contact lenses and prescription glasses to consumers in the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The Feb. 2014 acquisition was financed through a new funding round led by existing shareholder Octopus Investments and also included Fidelity Worldwide Investments, Hargreave Hale and Artemis Investment Management. After the closing of these acquisitions, the combined enterprise rebranded itself as Vision Direct.
Essilor International’s mission is to improve lives by improving sight. To support this mission, Essilor allocates more than €200 million to research and innovation every year, in a commitment to continuously bring new, more effective products to market. Essilor’s research department particularly concentrates on the combined progress of two complementary disciplines: optics and physiology, with a focus on virtual reality, a simulation tool that makes it possible to perceive and interact in 3D, in a multi-sensory way.
Essilor designs, manufactures, and sells ophthalmic lenses and ophthalmic optical instruments in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. It offers products for correcting myopia, hypermetropia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. The company operates through three segments: Lenses and Optical Instruments, Equipment, and Sunglasses & Readers.
The Lenses and Optical Instruments segment offers Varilux range of progressive lenses, the world’s first progressive lens which corrects presbyopia and allows clear vision in the wearer’s near, intermediate and far vision; Crizal range of lenses with anti-reflective, anti-smudge, and anti-static lenses; Optifog for anti-fog lenses; Xperio for polarized lenses; and Nikon, Transitions, Kodak, and Polaroid photochromic lenses. This segment also designs, develops, distributes, and maintains a range of optical instruments for opticians and prescription laboratories; and vision screening instruments for eye-care professionals, schools, occupational medicine centers, the military, and other institutions.
The Equipment segment manufactures and sells equipment and consumables, such as surfacing machines and anti-reflective coating units for prescription laboratories, and integrated optical chains and lens manufacturers.
The Sunglasses & Readers segment designs and markets non-prescription reading glasses and sunglasses under the eyewear brands, such as Foster Grant, Costa, Bolon, Molsion, Prosun, Ryders Eyewear, Magnivision, Gargoyles, SolarShield, and Corinne McCormack, as well as licenses for trademarks comprising Ironman, Nine West, Dockers, Reebok, Hello Kitty, and Disney.
Essilor reported consolidated revenue of more than €6.7 billion in 2015 and employs 61,000 people worldwide. It markets its products in more than 100 countries and has 32 plants, 490 prescription laboratories and edging facilities, as well as 5 research and development centers around the world. The company was founded in 1849 and is headquartered in Charenton-le-Pont, France. Essilor was formed through the merger of ophthalmic firms Essel and Silor in 1972. Essilor’s stock is traded on the Euronext Paris market and is included in the Euro Stoxx 50 and CAC 40 indices. Codes and symbols: ISIN: FR0000121667; Reuters: ESSI.PA; Bloomberg: EI:FP.