In an opening speech made in connection with the presentation of the company's results to financial analysts, Luxottica's founder and executive chairman, Leonardo Del Vecchio, said that the ophthalmic lens segment is “another area that has our attention,” pointing out that it is as big as the frame market and that it tends to deliver very high profit margins. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our retail chains and e-commerce,” he added.
Del Vecchio's comments created a stir because of ongoing speculation that Luxottica could be interested in merging with Essilor or taking over Carl Zeiss Vision. Historically, Luxottica has been very active in acquisitions, helped by its huge free cash flow, which amounted to €768 million in 2015.
The group's chief executive, Massimo Vian, played down the speculation, noting that the group serves 10 million clients in North America with both frames and prescription lenses and that 99 percent of the lenses sold are made in-house. To meet peak demand for lenses, which repeatedly occurs in March and August, the group's retail stores rely on third-party suppliers because it is not convenient to boost internal capacity just to match those short spikes. However, Vian admitted that frame and lens businesses are expected to converge in the future.
He acknowledged that the group is “always in a buying mood” and continuously reviews potential deals with a bias for distribution activities, but said that there are no talks on mergers or acquisitions with either Essilor or Zeiss. Luxottica has particularly close relations with Zeiss, with which it is working on Clarifye, an evolution of the AccuExam eye examination program that was rolled out at the end of 2012 in 200 pilot LensCrafters stores. The system will be implemented in 70 percent of LensCrafters' stores this year.