North America surpassed Europe as Essilor's largest market in the 1st quarter, ended March 31, as revenues in the region grew by 29.5 percent to €309.1 million, thanks in part to a stronger dollar. In Europe, instead, the group's sales role by 11.5 percent to €300.0 million. They grew by 28.4 percent to €60.3 million in the Asia-Pacific region and by 54.1 percent to €23.4 million in Latin America.

In local currencies and before accounting for acquisitions, sales were up by 12.4 percent in North America, by 9.8 percent in Europe, by 14.3 percent in the Asia-Pacific area and by 17.3 percent in Latin America.

All the major European markets grew by double digits except France, the largest national market for the French company, where sales were up by only 6.8 percent. In Germany, which has been a difficult market in recent years, group sales rebounded by 18 percent.

Overall unit sales were up, and the growth was compounded by a favorable shift in price mix during the quarter. The Varilux Physio progressive lens, which was launched in most of the world during the quarter, has been warmly received by customers, says Essilor.

Essilor's total revenues in the quarter grew by 21.5 percent to €692.8 million, but on a comparable basis they were up by only 11.5 percent. The increase in the U.S. dollar and other currency changes added 6 percent points to the growth. The numerous acquisitions made in 2005 and 2006, most of which were laboratories, contributed another 4 percentage points to the company's totals. In the 1st quarter alone the company made ten additional purchases that should add another €26 million to totals in 2006. The company said that it has several more acquisitions in line for the coming months as well.

Marking in a way its strong progress in North America, which has also been aided by the recent acquisition of Johnson & Johnson's prescription lens business, Essilor recently broke ground for the company's new U.S. corporate campus at Farmer's Branch, Texas.

Essilor expects to employ more than 380 people at the site within the next five years, as the company foresees being one of the largest employers in the area. As previously reported, development of the new grounds will involve refurbishing existing space and constructing two new facilities. The corporate headquarters building is expected to be finished by June 2007.