HAL Holding has bought 100 percent of the shares of the Spanish MasVision Group, which owns 15 optical retail stores operating under the +Vision banner and has a network of 320 franchised stores. The company, which has 150 employees, will be integrated with the operations of GrandOptical in Spain, forming a network of 350 stores whose sales amounted to about €100 million in 2007.

MasVision was previously owned by an equity fund, MCH, which had become disenchanted with this investment. As reported last year (EWI No. 8-9 of Aug. 2), the fund tried to engineer a merger of +Vision with two other Spanish-based optical retail chains, Sun Planet and MultiOpticas Internacional, which is not connected with the MultiOpticas cooperative in the country. José Luis Carceller, founder of Sun Planet, was going to steer the merger process, which would have formed an international conglomerate of more than 700 stores, but nothing came out of it.

The acquisition of MasVision, which is being made through GrandVision, is taking place just as Manuel Conejero announces his planned resignation as general manager of GrandOptical at the end of this year after 19 years with the company. GrandOptical has 231 stores including 106 franchises and 40 stores outside France. Formerly in charge of France, Conejero took responsibility for Europe in 2006.

HAL has also raised its shareholding in Lensmaster, the Moscow-based optical retail chain, from 32 percent to a controlling stake of 57 percent.

Meanwhile HAL has reported a decline in the operating income of its optical retail activities for the first quarter of this year. Adjusted for non-recurring items, it fell to €61 million from €66 million in the same period a year ago. Sales of the optical stores dropped by 0.6 percent on a comparable basis, due in part to the Easter holidays and to a tough comparison with an excellent first quarter one year ago. The difficult economic situation in some countries probably had an impact on the results as well.