Filos Group, the company through which the Lozza and Benetton families operate on the eyewear market, raised its turnover last year by 15 percent to around 120 billion lire (e60m-$60m). The results fell below the management's expectations, due to political and economic problems in South America and delays in the implementation of certain corporate acquisitions.

About 30 percent of the Filo's sales is on the domestic market, another 30 percent in the rest of Europe, 28 percent in North America and 12 percent in the rest of the world, but the group is going for a stronger presence in emerging markets. The Lozza family, which pioneered industrial eyewear frame production in 1878, controls 67 percent of the equity. The Benetton family owns 22 percent through its 21 Investimenti affiliate. The Imi-S. Paolo banking group holds a 5 percent stake, and the remaining 6 percent is held by various investors.

In the course of 1999, Filos Spa merged with Italiana Occhiali Design, and completed its acquisition of United Optical, licensee for the Benetton Group's eyewear brands. Heavy investments are planned for this year to develop the group's distribution network, which presently covers 67 countries through subsidiaries, partners and exclusive distributors. Filos ranks among the top 5 Italian firms in the industry. With sales of over 4 million units in 1999, the group employs a total of 350 people in 4 factories and 2 logistics centers, all located in Italy's Veneto and Friuli regions.

The group's CEO, Lucio Lozza, is contemplating a possible public offering, but not before the year 2002. His first priority is to strengthen the group's presence on its various markets, starting with its home base in Italy, but also in Asia and South America. An agreement was signed recently with Tecnol, the big producer and distributor in Brazil, where the Benetton Group is particularly strong.