Moulin International has decided to close down Metzler International's office at Mühlacker by the middle of 2005, involving the layoff of 34 employees, and to consolidate all its German operations in Düsseldorf, on the site of NiGuRa Optik, the former subsidiary of Rodenstock that was sold last year to Moulin along with its portfolio of brands and licenses, including Reebok eyewear.

Helmut Otto, the former CEO of NiGuRa, is taking on the position of general manager of Metzler International (Germany), responsible for all the brands in NiGuRa's and Metzler's portfolios, some of which will have to be dropped shortly to concentrate on the stronger ones. He takes on some of the responsibilities of Horst Tautz, the long-time executive of Metzler International who had been recently promoted as general manager in charge of most of its brands, who is leaving the company, while remaining as a consultant. Some other brands continue to be managed by the former United Optical in Italy. Otto will be responsible for product development, marketing and sales in Germany.

Metzler and NiGuRa will continue to have separate sales teams on the German market, but they will both report to Jürgen Schluck, German sales manager of NiGuRa, which came out last year as the largest supplier of branded ophthalmic frames in Germany and #3 in value after Rodenstock's remaining frame operations and Silhouette. Together with Metzler it's now #2 in value. Metzler's international sales manager, Rainer Eggart, will move to Düsseldorf to work together with NiGuRa's export manager, Arrien Voemen, but no immediate changes in foreign distribution are expected for the moment. On the other hand, all the warehousing for the European market will be centralized at Metzler's 10-year-old factory in the Czech Republic.

Company officials indicate that Metzler's operating margins improved last year and will continue to increase through the reorganization. Regarding the sales figures published in the last issue for Moulin, the percentage increases were misleading. Annualizing the figures reported for the 9-month fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2002, the company's European sales fell by 14.4 percent to HK$337.6 million in the 12 months ended last Dec. 31. Its revenues in China rose by 17.8 percent to HK$291.8 million. Sales in North America increased by 13.1 percent to HK$482.9 million, and the rest of the Asia/Pacific territory was up 9.5 percent to HK$122.5 million.