Sales increased by 18.7 percent in the first half ended June 30 to 975.3 million euros, with gains in all the major markets, especially in Europe. In Germany, Essilor International recorded a double-digit increase following a management reorganization. New products such as polycarbonate lenses and the new Panamic line of progressive lenses contributed to the growth. On a comparable basis, excluding the impact of changes in currencies and of acquisitions, the group's sales rose by 7.5 percent in the period.

The bottom line shows even better improvements in the 6-month period. The group's operating profit grew by 20.8 percent to 130.5 million euros, representing an honorable operating margin of 13.4 percent. The net profit is up 22.6 percent to 67.8 million euros.

The new joint venture with Nikon is developing according to expectations, with its sales contribution budgeted at 800 million French francs (e122m-$111m) in 2000. In the USA, Essilor has sold its own contact lens distribution business to Wise/Contact Us, but it has bought the latter's rigid gas permeable manufacturing operations for contact lenses.

There is still no word on the disposal of the stake held in Essilor by Saint-Gobain, the company's major shareholder. On the other hand, Christian Dalloz, which is controlled by Essilor, has reported a 34.9 percent sales increase to 124,150,000 euros in the first half, including an 8.7 percent gain on a comparable basis. All product lines contributed to the growth.