Huvitz, a fast-growing Korean supplier of equipment for the optical industry that is increasingly regarded as a serious challenger in the market, is considering several options to improve its penetration of the European market, including the establishment of a subsidiary to support the existing distributors of its products.

Company officials would not comment on the level of their sales in Europe, but according to competitors and clients, Huvitz has become more and more competitive in Europe in the last years. Working at two price levels, it has been developing many interesting new products, partly manufactured in China, over the last three years.

The two biggest segments in which Huvitz is involved are refractory equipment and edgers, each of which represents about 30 percent of revenues. The company has a stated ambition to become one of the top three providers of ophthalmic solutions, broadening the spectrum of its activities into the area of ophthalmologic diagnostic and surgical systems. It recently added microscopes to its portfolio and it is planning to start up a new unnamed business unit.

The company currently employs about 120 people in South Korea, including 40 engineers. Another 40 people work at the Chinese facility. Huvitz already controls the distribution of its products in Japan, where it bought a optics company, Verno-Giken, three years ago.

Quoted on the Seoul stock exchange since 2003, Huvitz reported a turnover of 38,632 million won (€25.4m-$31.4m) for 2009, up by 24.9 percent from the previous year. The gross margin fell only slightly to 42.0 percent. Net income improved by 66.4 percent to 6,779 million won (€4.5m-$5.5m).

The operating margin increased to 19.7 percent last year, up from 18.6 percent in 2008. It would have been even higher without increased expenditures of 5,325 million won (€3.5m-$4.3m) on R&D. They represented 3.6 percent of sales.

Huvitz stems from a former a unit of the huge LG (Life is Good) conglomerate specializing in refractory equipment. In 1998, the crisis that affected the European economy led LG to spin off this operation, selling it to a group of seven engineers who are still shareholders in the company including its general manager, J.J. Kim. Originally calling the company Mirae Optics, they worked very hard to expand the business and they entered the Japanese market the next year. The company's name was changed to Huvitz in 2002.