Firmly established as the second-largest optical retailer in the world after Luxottica through its multiple holdings in various countries, the Hal Group has decided to consolidate its two retail companies, Pearle Europe and GrandVision, into a single one and to place them under common management, capping 14 years of acquisitions in the eyewear sector.

The move follows the acquisition by the international investment company of a major stake in Safilo, the second-largest producer of optical frames and sunglasses in the world after Luxottica, which will continue to operate separately. While Hal should continue with its policy of decentralized management for its various chains, the move is expected to generate new synergies for its retail operations in the back-office and at various levels of the supply chain.

Hal's new optical retail group will be called GrandVision B.V. Based at Schiphol in the Netherlands, it is going to be led by Theo Kiesselbach, who has been chief executive of GrandVision S.A. in Paris since 2006. He previously ran from 2002 the German and Austrian operations of the Pearle Europe, represented essentially by Apollo-Optik.

The chief financial officer of the new GrandVision parent company will be Ed Visser, CFO of Pearle Europe since 2002 and an interim CEO since April. Until the merger is concluded, he will continue to lead Pearle Europe along with Dorhout Mees. That company and the current GrandVision will be run by their own management boards until the deal is completed.

Kiesselbach will seek to align strategic decisions at Pearle Europe and GrandVision in the process leading up to the merger, which should be completed by mid-2011.

The new company will overses a network of more than 4,000 stores in 40 countries, with about 18,000 employees and annual revenues exceeding €2.5 billion. Currently Hal owns 99.2 percent of Pearle Europe, which employs 11,100 people at 2,784 stores with annual sales of €1.5 billion, and 99.8 percent of GrandVision ? sales of €1 billion at 1,298 stores with 7,400 employees.