While Essilor has been looking at the possible acquisition of a big contact lens company such as CIBA Vision or CooperVision, it has not acted upon it for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, the big French group has consolidated a small related business in the USA by acquiring a majority share in OOGP, one of the largest contact lens distributors in the country, along with its buying group.

Essilor's incursion into the distribution of contact lenses began with its acquisition in 2003 of Nassau Vision Group, another U.S. company that distributes them and other ophthalmic products. The new business adds about $50 million to Essilor's annual turnover. Francois Bes de Berc, president of Nassau, will be in charge of developing Essilor's contact lens distribution business in the USA.

The French group has also announced the acquisition of a 51 percent stake in Integrated Lens Technology (ILT) of Singapore, extending its international network of wholesale distributors. Lionel Boh, founder of ILT, will continue to run the company along with the existing management team.

ILT, which sells directly to opticians in Singapore and Malaysia, was not distributing any of Essilor's products before. With 110 employees, the company generates annual sales of €13 million. Created in 2002, it has been selling some interesting products in 65 different countries. It launched last year Futurex, a single-vision lens based on a new exclusive polymer that has some of the characteristics of CR39 and Trivex. It followed recently with a line of free-form progressive lens including one that is specifically designed for children to correct near-convergence problems or to slow down the development of myopia.