Making a further move in its partial verticalization strategy, Essilor has announced the acquisition of Opti-Port, a joint service platform, founded in 2001 and based in St. Louis, Missouri, whose 33 members operate about 400 different practices in the U.S.  It supports its members with joint purchasing, web technology, training, conferences and marketing. The details of the transaction, which was completed earlier this month, were not released.

Opti-Port's services will be offered to a larger audience as it is joining the recently acquired Vision Source, Professional Eyecare Resources Corporation (PPERC) and Infinity Vision Alliance (IVA) in the company's portfolio of controlled operations. Together, these three other American groups gave Essilor access to about one-third of all the eye doctors in the region, who will thus become more aware of the benefits of its products, said Hubert Sagnières, chairman and chief executive of the group, in presenting its latest results (see the related story in this issue).

Opti-Port is only one of nine acquisitions conducted by the French optical company since the beginning of this year, representing combined annual revenues of €98 million. These include two more acquisitions in North America. In the U.S., Essilor has acquired iCare Industries, a laboratory based in Florida. In Canada, it has bought a majority stake in Axis Medical Canada, a distributor of optical instruments for eyecare professionals with revenues of around 6 million Canadian dollars (€4.2m-$4.8m), which should enable Essilor to boost its sales of instruments, particularly its refraction and optometry technologies.

In South Africa, Essilor has acquired a majority stake in One Vision Optical, a distributor of eyewear, readers and sunglasses with around €6 million in revenues, which also sells comprehensive vision solutions to independent opticians. One Vision Optical holds strong positions across sub-Saharan Africa.

After many other acquisitions in Latin America, Essilor has also entered the Peruvian market, where there is strong demand for better vision for a population of 30 million people, with its takeover of Ocutec Laboratorio, a prescription laboratory with annual revenues of around €3 million.

The other acquisitions already reported since the beginning of the year include Vision Direct in the U.K., OPV in Chile and two small laboratories in Brazil.

Essilor's management told financial analysts that many other acquisitions are in the pipeline, with M&A teams active in six or seven places around the world. In response to a question, Sagnières did not exclude Essilor being in the contact lens business 15 years from now, aside from its recent investments in online retailers of contact lenses.