Hal Holding has agreed to sell its optical retail operations in Australia, the Optifashion Group, to Luxottica Retail Australia Pty., a subsidiary of the optical giant. The Optifashion Group is made up of more than 60 stores that generate revenues of about 30 million Australian dollars (€21.5m-$28.1m) a year. The relevant anti-trust authorities still have to approve the sale, which should be complete in the fourth quarter of the year.

Hal Holding bought the Australian retail operations, which includes the banners Just Spectacles, Optidonist and AV Simon, from Safilo Group in December 2009, prior to its investment in the rest of the group. Luxottica already has a strong position in Australia as the owner of OPSM, Laubman & Plank and Budget Eyewear.

The announcement came as Hal reported its financial results for the first half of the year. The company's optical retail chains had a 7.6 percent sales increase to €1.08 billion in the first six months of 2010, or a 3.9 percent increase in constant currencies and excluding the effect of acquisitions. Comparable store sales, excluding currency effects and acquisitions, rose by 0.1 percent. Operating income was flat at €121 million for the division.

Hal Holding's net income jumped by 51 percent to €200.2 million. Total revenues rose by 7.3 percent to €1.83 billion, though this was an increase of just 1.5 percent on a currency-neutral basis and excluding acquisitions. Operating results increased to €264.5 million from 171.6 million. The group's net asset value rose by €515 million, or 11 percent, to €5,189 million by June 30.

During the six-month period, Hal made some important minority investments in the optical sector that contributed to raise the group's net debt to €894 million from €436 million at the end of 2009. Hal increased its stake in Safilo Group from 2.08 percent to 37.2 percent, and the group says that its optical chains purchased products worth €19.9 million from Safilo during that time. In May, Hal bought a 25 percent interest in a Mexican chain of 60 stores, Grupo Optica Lux, with an option to raise it to 70 percent in two years' time.