On a comparable basis and in constant currencies, Essilor International's global sales rose by 2.3 percent in the 1st half ended June 30. In the USA, the decline experienced at the beginning of the year flattened out in the 2nd quarter, which recorded only a slight drop. Business in Europe remained "firm" but the Japanese market remained depressed. Elsewhere, the group enjoyed robust growth in spite of the SARS disease in China and Singapore.

Changes in consolidation added 0.8 percentage points to sales growth. Nevertheless, reported sales dropped by 7.7 percent to €1,030.3 million in the period because of a 10.8 percent negative currency effect which had no impact on operating margins. In fact, the management says it was able to exceed the targeted 16 percent operating margin in spite of the poor sales scores thanks to productivity gains and cost discipline.

Meanwhile, Essilor has completed the acquisition of the largest prescription laboratory in Hawaii, Optical Suppliers, which is also the largest local distributor of its own Varilux lenses. It generates annual sales of $5 million with 50 people.