Confirming a newspaper report, Hoya Vision Care says its European sales grew by 13.4 percent in the nine months ended Dec. 31 to represent 37 percent of this division of Hoya Corp., which has set out the goal of doubling its sales in the region under the management of Gerald Bottero. With responsibilities expanded to the Middle East, Africa and a portion of the Asian continent, he is gradually taking over from the former European manager, Eduard Flentge, who is now coming into the Dutch office only a couple of days a week as he gears up for retirement.

The Japanese company is making strides with its ophthalmic lenses in a number of emerging markets including China, India, Poland and the Czech Republic as part of its growing internationalization. In China, where it set up offices three years ago in Shanghai and Hong Kong for its higher-end products, Hoya has signed a deal with a local manufacturer for a cheaper line of single-vision lenses. Called Estelux, it will be marketed in China from March onwards and exported to various price-sensitive emerging markets, including Russia.

The Japanese market accounted for only 38.5 percent of the division's sales during the latest 9-month period. Worldwide, the company's vision care sales increased by 8.7 percent to 76.6 billion yen (€535.7m-$642.8m), with a 0.6 percent drop in Japan offset by a 14.7 percent increase in the rest of the world. The operating margin grew to 19.8 percent from 18.3 percent in the same period of the previous financial year, and it hit 21.9 percent in the 4th quarter, up from 20.1 percent in the 4th quarter of the previous year.

Vision care sales grew by 9.9 percent to 26.15 billion yen (€182.9m-$219.4m) in the latest quarter, declining by 2.9 percent in Japan and rising by 17.7 percent elsewhere. Hoya says a moderate recovery continued in the Japanese eyewear market, but Hoya's sales grew mainly in the upper price bracket. Overseas, growth was recorded in all the regions including Asia, Oceania, the USA and Europe. The German market gave signs of recovery. Sales grew also in France, and they went up by about 20 percent in the UK, where Hoya is making major investments to improve service to customers.

Hoya's health care division, which comprises contact lenses and intraocular lenses, raised its sales by 12.5 percent to 26.5 billion yen (€185.3m-$222.4m) in the first nine months of its financial year, generating an operating margin of 23.3 percent. Domestic sales, which accounted for 97.7 percent of the total, grew by 11.1 percent. In the highly competitive contact lens sector, Hoya sought to differentiate itself in Japan by continuing the establishment of new retail stores for these products.