Hal Holding has become the  leader in the rather fragmented Italian optical market, with annual sales of more than €200 million and a market share estimated at between 6 and 7 percent. After its acquisition of the Ottica Avanzi chain of optical retail stores 14 years ago, the Dutch-based investment group has now brought a big, historic Sicilian-based chain, Angelo Randazzo - Optissimo, into the portfolio of its major optical retail subsidiary, GrandVision. The takeover price has not been disclosed, but the company denies rumors, spread on the day of the announcement, that the price tag and other terms of the agreement have not yet been finalized.

Founded in Palermo in 1880, Randazzo now employs some 1,000 people in Italy through 101 Optissimo sales points and 89 corners in supermarkets and hypermarkets. Added to 183 Avanzi stores and 30 Solaris stores currently operating in Italy, the takeover gives GrandVision a total network of 403 outlets in the country, coming very close to the 444 announced recently by Salmoiraghi & Viganò, the 150-year-old group that lays claims to being Italy's largest eyewear retailer. In terms of sales, however, GrandVision will be bigger than Salmoiraghi on the Italian market.

Furthermore, contrary to the difficult financial situation in which Salmoiraghi was mired a couple of years ago, leading to an investment by its biggest supplier, Luxottica, Randazzo appears to be in perfect health, and the synergies with Avanzi should improve the balance sheet further. Randazzo will close the year with turnover of around €105 million and a gross operating margin before amortization (Ebitda) of €9 million – or 8.6 percent of revenues -  while Avanzi's turnover should amount to €97 million with Ebitda at €7.5 million, equivalent to 7.7 percent of sales.

Randazzo claims that its financial situation is perfectly sound, so why sell such a prosperous business? The company explains that its current economic and financial dimensions are not compatible with the needs of an ever-expanding globalized market. The Randazzo family consequently decided to accept the offer made by GrandVision, whose capacity for future investments is far higher.

It is interesting to note that the destinies of Italy's two major optical retail chains are both intertwined with those of the two major suppliers at the wholesale level, at least financially. After Hal acquired a minority stake in Safilo, which was not doing well, Luxottica saved Salmoiraghi from bankruptcy by taking a minority share, without being involved in its management. That makes a total of almost 900 Italian stores equally divided between the two camps. Safilo has made no secret of the fact that it is selling more of its own products to Hal's international network of stores. We have not been able to determine whether the same is happening between Luxottica and Salmoiraghi, in the same spirit as Luxottica's relationship with Sunglass Hut International and other controlled retail chains outside Italy.

The Randazzo Group was assisted in the transaction by Fabrizio Loiacono at Studio Di Simone; UniCredit Corporate & Investment Banking as financial advisers; the lawyer Filippo Cesaris in his capacity as equity partner assisted by a senior adviser; Vincenzo Trizza; and by Alice Bucolo and Eleonora Parrocchetti in their capacity as legal advisers at Studio Legale Associato NCTM. The unions have requested a meeting in order to obtain a guarantee that there will be no dismissals and to be kept informed about any changes in the management and its plans for the future.