Hoya Vision Care confirmed on April 2 that it had reopened its Thai manufacturing facility in Ayutthaya according to plan, starting with limited volumes of lenses that will gradually increase over the next months. The big facility had been at a standstill since last October because of extensive flooding that damaged a lot of the equipment.

To prevent similar damage in the future, Hoya has reinforced the surrounding factory walls, installed additional water pump systems and drainage pipes, and taken other measures. At the same time, the high-tech industrial estate that Hoya shares with Nikon, Seiko and many other companies is redesigning its pumping systems and building a new 5.4-meter-high flood barrier. Last autumn, the floodwaters reached a height of 4.5 meters.

Meanwhile, Hoya Corporation and Seiko Holdings have announced a basic agreement to begin discussions about forming a global alliance in marketing and distribution of eyewear products. Seiko says that one of the possible outcomes of these discussions may be the transfer of partial ownership in its Seiko Optical Products (SOP) subsidiary to Hoya.

The discussions also cover the possible transfer to Hoya of Seiko Epson's eyeglass lens development and manufacturing operations to Hoya. Seiko Epson is the main supplier of eyeglass lenses to SOP, produced mainly in Japan and the Philippines. It could not be determined whether the use of Seiko Epson's lens manufacturing facilities may lead Hoya to obtain an alternative source of sophisticated lenses instead of setting up a new operation to supplement its superlaboratory in Thailand. After the shutdown last October of its own facility in Ayuttahya, due to the flooding, Hoya's management had indicated that it was planning to construct another one in another country.

Seiko Optical is particularly strong in the development and manufacture of free-form back-side progressive lenses, for which it holds important patent rights, as well as in high-index and double-aspheric lenses. Run out of Germany since 1992, its European operations, which are also in charge of the Middle East, are said to be profitable, with offices also in the U.K., France, the Benelux countries, Spain and Jordan. Seiko also has an important position in the Russian market, and it has an office in the U.S.

Seiko launched the first aspheric progressive lenses in 1990. The Japanese company took over Asahi Optical in 1999 and bought the balance of the former Pentax Corporation in 2003. Hoya purchased Pentax' medical optics operations in 2007, which include intraocular lenses and endoscopes, but it left Pentax' ophthalmic optics business in the hands of Seiko, which combined them with its own operations in the field.

Seiko is also particularly strong in lens coatings. A couple of months ago, after Essilor's introduction of its Optifog technology, Seiko introduced its Seiko FogLessCoat system in Europe. It has been available in Japan since 2004. Unlike Hoya, which took them out of its own product range in Japan last year, Seiko continues to market its own prescription frames.

In its latest financial statement, which covered the nine months ended last Dec. 31, Seiko reported sales of 17.1 billion yen (€160.6m-$212.7m) for its optical products business. They were down by 0.5 percent from the same period of the previous financial year, but the company pointed out that it had enjoyed steady progress in Europe and the U.S. The operating income of this business unit jumped by 106.8 percent to around ¥200 million (€1.9m-$2.5m) during the period.

For the full financial year ended March 31, the company said in February that it expected operating profit of ¥300 million (€2.8m-$3.7m) on sales of ¥23.0 billion (€216.1m-$286.1m) for its optical products business. Seiko also predicted a net loss of ¥9.5 billion (€89.2m-$118.2m) on a 6.0 percent decline in total sales of ¥295.0 billion (€2,771m-$3,670m), due primarily to the floods in Thailand, which halted its own production of electronic components.

Bühler acquires Leybold

The Bühler Technology Group has reached an agreement for a full takeover of Leybold Optics from the EQT III investment fund at an undisclosed price. The move, which has yet to be approved by antitrust authorities, is described by Bühler has yet another important step in the expansion of the activities of its advanced materials division.

According to Bühler, Leybold was profitable last year on sales of more than €200 million. Based at Alzebau, Germany, it is one of the world's leading suppliers of production systems for vacuum deposition of functional layers for a wide range of applications, especially in the optics, automotive, electronic and packaging industries. It is particularly strong in vacuum thin film sputtering technology.

In the ophthalmic sector, a year ago Leybold launched a new premium integrated process for anti-reflective coatings, called Eminent.

The German company's glass & solar unit provides coating systems for large substrates to the photovoltaic, glass and display industries. Likewise, it has developed expertise to service the architectural glass market as well as systems for solar and photovoltaic applications during the 11 years that it has been a property of EQT. It has also set up production sites in the U.S. and China.

While Leybold employs 600 people in Germany and at its other development and production sites in those two countries, Bühler has a payroll of about 8,800 people and operates in more than 140 countries. It had a turnover of 2,130 million Swiss francs (€1,772m-$2,349m) in 2011.

Based at Uzwil in Switzerland, Bühler is a global leader in the field of process engineering, specializing in production technologies and services for foods and advanced materials. Leybold's acquisition will supplement Bühler's nanotechnology unit and its grinding and dispersion systems for the preparation of printing inks, electronic materials and fine chemicals. The company will be integrated in its advanced materials division as a new business unit, retaining its existing management.

Leybold was founded 160 years ago by its inventors, Ernst Leybold and Wilhlem Carl Heraeus. The Nordic EQT fund bought a 90 percent stake in Leybold in 2001 from the Zurich-based Unaxis Group for CHF 245 million (€203.8m-$270.1m). Members of management were given shares in the company, but Bühler is buying 100 percent of the equity. Unaxis, which specializes in semiconductors and compact discs, bought Leybold from the Swiss Oehrlikon-Bührle group four years earlier.