Permira has given a mandate to Drücker, a Frankfurt-based investment advisor, to sound out potential bidders for its own 85 percent controlling interest in Rodenstock, whose results have been improving faster than expected. Anyhow Xavier Fontanet, chairman and chief executive of Essilor International, said a few days ago that he would evidently look at the opportunity of making an offer for the German company because of the good image of the brand, its technology and its strong market position in Germany and in Latin America.

Some industry observers raised their eyebrows, feeling that Essilor may face anti-trust problems on the German market, where it took over recently Rupp + Hubrach. They feel that Essilor may want to make a takeover deal more expensive for Hoya, which has notoriously considered Rodenstock's acquisition several times in the past.

Officials of Carl Zeiss Vision indicated that they had no interest in Rodenstock at this stage, as the merger with SOLA International has yet to be digested. A report in the German edition of the Financial Times pointed to Luxottica and Safilo as other possible candidates for Rodenstock's acquisition, probably considering that Essilor is likely not interested in Rodenstock sunglass and prescription frames operations, but a spokesman for Permira reiterated its wish to sell the group as a single concern.

Independently of what Hoya may do with regard to Rodenstock, its German subsidiary in Monchengladbach, Hoya Lens Deutschland, has invested about €2.7 million in the past three months to optimize production processes and to increase capacities. The number of its employees has been raised by 10 percent to 270. Service schedules have been accelerated.

For its part, Rodenstock has appointed a new finance director, Ludger Vonnahme, who previously held a similar role at Nordsee, a German chain of restaurants. The 51-year-old executive has replaced Bernhard Matzner, who lasted in the job for only eight months.