The integration of its various acquisitions in Europe and the centralization of production facilities generated a 2 percent improvement in Fedon's operating margins last year, contributing to a 30.8 percent increase in operating income to e6.3 million, or 10.7 percent of sales, which grew by 6.7 percent to e58.6 million. Further improvements are now expected from the start-up last month of a new automated warehouse near the new Munich headquarters of Kapunkt, the company's German subsidiary, which will handle deliveries all over Europe.

The Italian-based world leader in eyeglass cases and other accessories raised its net profit for the year by a massive 125.6 percent to e7.1 million, boosted by an extraordinary e2 million tax gain related to the group's reorganization. In fact, the pre-tax profit was lower ? at e5.1 million ? but it still was 37.8 percent higher than in 2000.

As previously reported, the group acquired last year in a significant move a 25 percent stake in Victoria Enterprise Ltd, based in Hong Kong, with ramifications throughout China. While still relatively marginal, Fedon's new venture into objects for the desktop and office generated a 32.2 percent increase in turnover as compared to 2000. Fedon is now extending its line of chains for spectacles.

Fedon boasts a 22 percent share of the world market for eyewear cases. It manufactures 40 million eyewear cases and 22 million accessories in Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia with a workforce of 600.