Reinforcing its position in the low and medium segments of the ophthalmic market, Essilor has signed a deal to buy the entire capital of Signet Armorlite through its U.S. subsidiary EOA Holding. Terms of the agreement, which is subject to approval by regulatory authorities in certain countries, were not released.

We had already predicted this takeover last June, when we reported on Essilor's acquisition of Satisloh. Company officials declined to spell out the future integration strategy for Signet Armorlite until the deal is closed, probably in the first half of this year. The U.S.-based company can certainly benefit from Essilor's technological resources and from its global presence.

Based in California, Signet Armorlite specializes in entry-level and mid-range progressive lenses, targeting mainly independent opticians and small and medium-sized chains. One important asset is an exclusive licensee to make Kodak branded lenses, which it will continue to do. Bruno Salvadori and the rest of his team are going to continue to run the company.

The company has annual revenues of more than $130 million, of which about one-half are made in the U.S. and 45 percent in Europe, with a strong presence especially in the U.K.. Signet has about 900 employees. It has a factory in Mexico, four prescription labs in the U.S. and Europe, and three distribution centers in Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The American company is at the moment owned by a private investment group. Italian-based investors are said to be financially involved, although it is not clear whether they are related to the former Galileo, with which the company was linked. Essilor bought the remains of Galileo in Italy from Ital Lenti a few months ago.

Based in Venice, the former Galileo Industrie Ottiche owned 60 percent of Signet Armorlite until 2000. The American company was working on a reverse takeover of Galileo, whose Italian operations were then instead acquired by Ital Lenti. Signet Armorlite was originally formed in 1983 from the merger of two companies in California, Armorlite and Signet Uptown, that started up in 1947 and 1960, respectively.