BMC Industries and its subsidiaries in the USA have filed a request for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after repeated attempts to restructure the group's bulging debt. At the same time, BMC has announced that it has agreed to sell substantially all the domestic and foreign assets of its Vision-Ease lens subsidiary to I.E.A.P.X, a limited partnership in Southlake, Texas that buys up under-performing companies in various sectors.

The sale, which is subject to a court-supervised process, will generate the proceeds that will help BMC to repay a debtor-in-possession financing facility just obtained to allow the group to continue to operate. On the other hand, BMC warns that no other proceeds or assets would then be available for distribution to shareholders or unsecured creditors.

The sale of Vision-Ease to the Texas firm is viewed as possibly an interim solution pending a subsequent sale of Vision-Ease or some of its assets, which include some very interesting patents, to strategic investors. Essilor has probably been interested in an acquisition, but it may be facing anti-trust problems in the USA because both companies are strong players in the polycarbonate lens market.

BMC, which is in the final stages of winding down its former Buckbee-Mears TV mask operations, says Vision-Ease will continue to operate without any interruption in spite of the proceedings. Vision-Ease employs about 400 people in the USA and 900 in the rest of the world. It has its own factories in the USA and Indonesia.