France, the rest of Europe, North America, South America and Asia all contributed to the 5.8 percent increase in Essilor's turnover, on a comparable basis, in the 3rd quarter ended Sept. 30. It's a better score than the 2.8 percent increase of the 1st half of the year, and it raises to 3.4 percent the sales increase for the first 9 months of the year.

In absolute terms, Essilor's sales grew by 5.4 percent to 7,750 million French francs (e1,180m-$1,190m) in the 9-month period, including a favorable 0.4 percent currency exchange gain and extra growth of 1.6 percent from the consolidation of new lens prescription laboratories, which more than offset the sale of its luxury eyewear frame operations (Alfred Dunhill, Cartier and Montblanc brands) to the Vendôme group.

The group doesn't expect any major increase in this year's results, largely because special Y2K-related charges of about 90 million FF (e13.7m-$13.8m). Meanwhile, company officials indicate that Essilor's agreement on a joint venture with Nikon has been finalized. Called Nikon-Essilor, the new joint company has taken over all of Nikon's activities in the area of prescription and contact lenses, which were unprofitable last year on sales of 13 billion yen (e114m-$115m). The main goal is to get Essilor into the third place on the Japanese market after Hoya and Seiko. Nikon-Essilor should boost the group's sales by about 600 million FF (e90m) as of next year. The consequences of the deal on Nikon's lens distribution operations outside Japan could not be determined yet