The Lee family has taken Crown Eyeglass off from the London stock exchange, where investors are getting more and more away from low-cap firms other than internet and mobile phone start-ups. Joseph G. Lee and his son Martin B. Lee, who are respectively the managing director and the finance director of the group, now own 96 percent of the group. The rest is shared by two other members of the management, Deena Singer and Kathleen Thompson, and by a non-executive director, Alan A. Thompson.
Based in Leicester, the British Crown Eyeglass group operates 69 optical stores and includes Readyspex, the leading UK brand of ready-made reading glasses. The stores sell mostly their own private label products. They include 32 company-owned Crown Optical Centre outlets and 19 franchises in the UK, plus a chain of 18 Direkt Optik stores in Sweden.
Together, the present shareholders held previously 65.7 percent of the shares, limiting the group's flotation. The other shareholders have agreed to tender nearly all of their shares in exchange for cash and loan notes, triggering a compulsory redemption of the remaining ones. They responded to an offer to get paid 90 cents a share, or 28 percent above the company's closing stockmarket price last June 14.
The share redemption price valued the group at £1.44 million (e2.50m-$2.07m). In the year ended last Apr. 2, the group turned around to a net profit of £32,000 (e55,000-$46,000) from a net loss of £118,000 (e205,000-$170,000) in the previous one. The operating profit improved by to £209,000 (e362,000-$300,000)from £36,000, while turnover grew by 8.6 percent to £10,743,000 (e18,619,000-$15,435,000) from £9,891,000.
The Swedish chain, which started off in 1992 with a store in Gothenborg, continues to lose money, but less than before. Two of the Swedish outlets have been closed recently. The management complains about the high value of the pound, which has risen by more than 50 percent against the Swedish krona since the initial investment, and about the group's inability to offset the losses incurred in Sweden against UK profits for tax purposes.