The operating margin of Essilor International improved to 14.8 percent in the 1st half ended June 30 from 14 percent in the same period a year ago, thanks to a marked increase in the profitability of its US laboratories, to a better product mix and to positive results for the Nikon-Essilor joint venture. As previously reported (EyeWear Intelligence of Sept. 3), the group's revenues rose by 7 percent in the 6-month period to e1,046.3 million, with increases of 4.9 percent on a comparable basis and of 2.4 percent in local currencies.

Despite the better margins, the group's net income remained virtually flat at e69.2 million, as compared to e69.3 million, due in particular to higher interest charges and to extraordinary charges of e13.1 million, mainly related to the development of the VisionWeb internet portal in the USA. The higher finance charges stemmed primarily from the buy-back last November of a stake of 6.9 percent in the company, which led to a 5.9 percent increase in net earnings per share.

Essilor has now completed the planned buy-back and redemption of 12,274 remaining privileged shares at e330 each. Following the transaction, the company has proceeded to a planned 10-for-1 stock split.

Meanwhile, Christian Dalloz, a subsidiary of Essilor specializing in protective eyewear and other personal protection products, has completed a planned merger with Bacou, another company involved in the same sector. Essilor ends up as owner of an 18.6 percent stake in the equity of the new Bacou-Dalloz group, with 25.5 percent of the voting rights. Ginette Dalloz owns 16.3 percent of the ordinary shares and 24.12 percent of the voting shares. A group of investors that previously controlled Bacou owns 32.7 percent of the shares and 25.3 percent of the votes in the new group.