In one of several new transactions, Essilor International has acquired a 50 percent stake in Wanxin Optical, described as one of the three major Chinese manufacturers of ophthalmic lenses. Based in Danyang, north of Shanghai, it has annual sales of about €24 million, annual production of about 35 million lenses, and more than 2,000 employees. The Wanxin brand name is said to be well-known in China.

The investment reinforces Essilor's position in the medium segment of the market, where the group has set its eyes for further development. It follows its acquisition last year of a 72 percent stake in the factory of ILT Danyang, another Chinese company that has an annual production of 22 million lenses. Previously, Essilor's growth initiatives in China had been focused on building strong positions in the premium segment of the market, which is comparatively small, through house brands such as Varilux and Crizal.

Essilor points out that only between 200 and 220 million lenses are sold annually in China, a country were fewer than half of the 900 million Chinese with vision problems are being treated correctly, making the country a huge potential growth spot.

Wanxin says the transaction will provide it with more resources to speed up its growth. Wanxin's management will remain in place as the company is fully consolidated by Essilor.

Essilor also announced today some other new transactions that will bring in extra annual revenues of €40 million.:

- New deals have been made in Brazil with three major prescription laboratories. Essilor has acquired majority stakes in Embrapiol Sul and Farol, while raising its stake in Unilab to 51 percent. Embrapiol operates in the Parana region and has annual revenues of approximately €9.3 million. Farol in Rio Grande do Sul generates revenues of €7.2 million. Unilab, which is located in the Noreste state, has annual revenues of €6.3 million.

- In South Africa, Essilor has signed a partnership agreement with Easy Vision, a distributor of lenses to independent laboratories with an annual turnover of €1.5 million.

- Essilor continues to expand in India with the acquisition of a majority stake in Prakash, a prescription lab with annual sales of €300,000.

- Two new partners in the U.S. join its large network of laboratories: Westchester Optical in New York state, with revenues of around $9.3 million, and NEA Optical in Arkansas with sales of $3.7 million.

- In France, the company has taken a shareholding in Essor, a distributor of medium-priced lenses with revenues of more than €5 million, of which a large portion comes from its business in the West Indies.