HAL Investments doesn't need to take over GrandVision to consolidate the European market leadership Pearle Europe. Its #1 position in the European market is being confirmed through an agreement to acquire a controlling 50.16 percent stake in Synoptik, with a consent on its strategy by the Lego Foundation, which will continue to hold a 42.24 share in the Danish-based optical retail chain. The remaining equity will be held by management, employees and the company itself.

The price of the transaction could not be learnt. Before the deal with Pearle Europe, the owners had discussions with other potential buyers, including Fielmann, which could not agree on the conditions set by shareholders. The deal should be completed in late August or in September, after obtaining approval from anti-trust authorities. Pearle Europe is taking over its stake from Kirbi, an investment company controlled by Lego, and from an insurance group called Nordea.

Synoptik will add annual sales of about €200 million in 5 countries to those of Pearle Europe, whose multiple holdings are expected to post sales of more than €700 million in the financial year ending next Sept. 30. With Synoptik's takeover, the number of stores controlled by Pearle Europe will grow from 1,177 to close to 1,500 in 12 countries ? Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. The takeover will allow it to reach the #2 position in Sweden and Poland with 90 and 48 stores, respectively. It will also consolidated its #2 position in Germany with an additional 52 stores generating annual sales of 25 million.

Like with previous acquisitions, Pearle Europe will maintain the current management at Synoptik, which employs 1,842 people and operates a total of 291 stores in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Poland. They are called Synoptik except for those in Norway, which carry the Brillenland banner. Synoptik, which integrated a former Scandinavian buying group a few years ago a later bought a chain in Germany, is particularly strong in contact lenses.

The acquisition allows Pearle Europe to enter the Danish and Norwegian markets, while reinforcing its market position in the 3 others. Pearle Europe already operates 351 Apollo Optik stores in Germany, 31 in Sweden under the Ogat banner 35 in Poland as Vision Express.