The family of Pierre Berthet-Bondet, which owns 80 percent of the French company, is looking for one or more new strategic partners to take over all or part of its business, which is divided into two different segments. Berthet-Bondet is one of France's leading suppliers of sunglasses for the mass market, which are outsourced in low-cost countries. It's also the main European distributor of Nikon eyewear and an eyewear licensee for some major French fashion brands such as Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Thierry Mugler, Rochas and Sonya Rykiel. It's also the licensee of Creeks and of Club Mediterranée, whose lines are now distributed mostly in the department stores.
The company, which is quoted on the French stock exchange, has been placed in receivership following a financial squeeze, with 6 months to present a viable financial reorganization plan. It has been reporting losses since 1998, when it decided to move up-market and to invest strongly on its international sales network after Safilo and other Italian majors decided to push their own sunwear business. The last published financial report shows a net loss of e1.26 million for Berthet-Bondet in the year ended Aug. 31, 2001 on sales of e18.8 million.
Founded in 1950, originally to manufacture plastic accessories for hairstyling, the company employs about 150 persons at Bellignat, near Oyonnax, in the heart of the Jura region. Pierre Berthet-Bondet has spoken to larger companies in the region such as L'Amy. It seems, however, that L'Amy and other potential buyers were not interested in the company's mass market operations.