This medium-sized Italian contract manufacturer has patented an ultra-light metal frame, called Arquo, that is selling well in France and Japan at the moment through the Charmant group, representing around 20 percent of its own annual turnover of about €2 million. However, an investment in Russia that had begun on a very positive note in 2002 has ended up with a court case.
After acquiring the eyeglass frame manufacturing facilities of the former Galileo for a ridiculous sum, Foval decided to invest about €1 million to buy a 43 stake in a Russian company, called Comtez, a huge firm with a workforce of 3,000, that began to make semi-finished frames ready for galvanization at prices of only €3 a piece for a couple of major clients. The balance of Comtez' equity remained in the hands of a cooperative structure belonging to its workforce, and its management soon began to exclude the Italian partner from any decision-making, refusing modernization proposals and suddenly increasing the agreed price of certain products in the middle of the production process.
In a process that bears some resemblance to recent clamorous ownership changes in the Russian oil industry, Foval says the representatives of Comtez' Russian controlling shareholders then established a new holding company to which they transferred all its assets, including Foval's 43 percent stake, while making the original company insolvent. The Italian company has consequently started legal proceedings, hoping to obtain the liquidation of its stake in the company for the sum of €1 million that it had originally invested in the venture.