Carl Zeiss Vision is expected to announce shortly the appointment of a top-notch chief operating officer with global responsibilities, a new function within the group. Reporting to Norbert Gorny, president and chief executive, he will be in charge of coordinating the activities of the group's laboratories around the world now that the integration with the former SOLA is virtually completed.

Meawhile, the company has announced the appointment of a new general manager for Europe, Thomas Radke, who will also be member of the board. In charge of sales and marketing in the region, is replacing as of Apr. 1 Rudi Spiller, who is leaving at his own request to pursue a new professional challenge outside the company.

A very dynamic and rather unique personality, the 52-year-old Spiller has spent the last 21 years within the Carl Zeiss Group. Radke, 46, was most recently general manager at Procter & Gamble's headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in Geneva. He previously worked at Henkel, Mars and Wella.

Company executives indicated that Spiller's departure was not related to the recent performance of Carl Zeiss Vision in Europe, where group sales have developed rather nicely in recent months. Zeiss' acquisition of a former laboratory of GrandVision near Paris allowed it to regain some business with Pearle Europe. In the Fall of 2006, just as the top management was changing at Carl Zeiss Europe, Zeiss lost a major tender organized by Pearle Europe to the benefit of Essilor and Rodenstock. Hoya and Zeiss had previously that contract.

The loss of the contract, combined with the weakness of the U.S. dollar, had a major negative effect on the sales results of Carl Zeiss Vision for the financial year ended last Sept. 30, where they increased by only 3 percent to €844 million, according to the Carl Zeiss Group, which it has a 50 percent interest in the company. Rodenstock, reportedly grew by 6 percent in the 2007 calendar year to €396 million, despite a major drop on the German market in the second half.

On a consolidated basis, the Carl Zeiss Group achieved a sales increase of 7 percent to €2,604 million in the past fiscal year, with a 9 percent gain on a currency-neutral basis. The operating margin (EBIT) grew to 15 percent from 12 percent the year before. Net income jumped by 40 percent to an all-time high of €233 million.

Semiconductors and industrial measurement achieved the best scores in terms of sales advances, with growth of 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively, on a constant-currency basis. Having reached a mid-term target of 30 percent equity ratio, the board has decided to give a dividend to €10 million to the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

Including Carl Zeiss Vision's staff, the group employed 12,257 persons at the end of the past financial year, compared with 11,249 one year earlier. Of them, 7,965 worked in Germany. The staff was further raised to 12,775 persons by last Jan. 31, in line with sharply increased sales and orders.

Total revenues for the first four months of the new financial year were up by 12 percent to €956 million, and they grew by 15 percent in local currencies. They generated 54 percent higher operating profit of €166 million. The order backlog is up by 8 percent on a comparable basis, or by 11 percent in constant currencies.

Meanwhile the group has raised to 50 percent its stake in a joint venture in India, GKB Hi-Tec, and expanded its eyewear operations. The investment is expected to open up new sales opportunities for value-added ophthalmic lenses in neighboring markets as well.

Separately, Zeiss has inaugurated a new Vision Innovation Center at its head office in Aalen. The new 190-square-meter structure showcases all the latest product novelties of Carl Zeiss Vision, including its new i.Scription technology.