Essilor reported a 3.6 percent increase in revenues to €762.2 million for the first quarter ended March 31, but on a comparable basis, assuming no acquisitions and no changes in exchange rates, the growth would have been 6.2 percent. That's down from recent growth rates of more than 8 percent for the world's leading supplier of ophthalmic lenses, but closer to its long-term forecast of an annual organic growth of about 6 percent, or 10 percent including acquisitions.

Excluding the currency effect, which knocked off €40.5 million from the quarterly sales, Essilor's turnover would have risen by 10.2 percent. Acquisitions made in 2007 contributed 3.3 percentage points to this growth figure, and those made so far in 2008 by a further 0.7 percentage points. In terms of volume, sales increased by 4-5 percent with particular strength in progressive lenses, 1.6-index lenses and Transitions, whose sales rose by 17 percent, mostly in North America, coinciding with the launch of a new generation of photochromics.

Sales in Europe were €346.4 million, a reported growth of 3.6 percent and a 3.7 percent increase on a comparable basis, with strong increases of 13 percent in Germany and 11 percent in Eastern Europe. Sales grew by 2.5 percent in France and by 3.7 percent in Southern Europe, but declined by 1 to 2 percent in the U.K.

Sales in North America were up by 2.1 percent in euros to €318.3 million, but in local currencies they increased by 8.2 percent, lifted by Transitions and by higher sales of anti-reflective coatings. Sales in Latin America jumped by 17.6 percent to €28.3 million, led by Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

In the Asia-Pacific region, revenues were up by only 5.9 percent to €69.2 million, with a 6.6 percent increase in local currencies, due essentially to an unusual drop of 8 percent in Australia. The management blamed a poor economy, due to drought, and poor service levels, due to operational problems that should be resolved shortly. Sales grew by 3.5 percent in Japan, by 22 percent in China and by more than 18 percent in India.

The management is confident that operating margins will end up close to last year's high level of more than 18 percent. That is the goal, at least. Further acquisitions are in the pipeline. In the first quarter the company used some of its excess cash to buy back 1.7 million shares for a total of €65 million.