The high operating margin (Ebit) reached by Hoya's vision care division in the 3rd quarter ended last Dec. 31 compares with a margin of 18.1 percent in the same period a year ago. It came in spite of a 3.5 percent decline in the segment's revenues to 23.8 billion yen (€172m-$225m), increased R&D expenses and a slightly expanded staff of 6,200 persons, compared with 5,874 at the end of 2003.

Sales increased by 5.3 percent in Japan to 8,616 million yen (€62.3m-$81.5m), confirming the moderate recovery of the domestic market. Hoya benefited from the introduction of new products and of value-added enhancements to its line of progressive lenses in Japan and other markets.

Outside Japan, the division's sales fell by 8.2 percent overall, still representing 59.7 percent of the total business, thanks mainly to the effects of the German health reform in Europe's largest market. Sales in the Asia-Pacific region were described as solid, however.

The operating margin in the health care division, which includes contact lenses and intraocular lenses, improved to 21.9 percent in the quarter from 19.2 percent a year earlier. The division's sales increased by 11.4 percent to 7 billion yen (€51m-$66m), with increases of 9.9 percent in Japan and 153 percent overseas, but most of the revenues were still generated domestically.

Better results in electro-optics and other operations helped the Hoya group to post an overall 13.2 percent sales increase in the quarter to 77.79 billion yen (€563m-$736m). The group's operating profit rose from 25.7 to 27.8 percent of sales. Net income grew by 54.7 percent to 16.12 billion yen (€12m-$15m).