Salmoiraghi & Viganò, the Italian optical retail chain owned by Dino Tabacchi, has indirectly acquired a controlling stake in one of the three major Sicilian chains, Angiolucci Lunettes 1948. The Salmoiraghi group, which is already the largest optical retailer in Italy, will have a 51 percent share in a new company that will run Salmoiraghi's 14 stores on the island and the 16 units owned by Claudio Angiolucci's group. Angiolucci will hold the remaining 49 percent and will thus participate in a major expansion program in Sicily.

Angiolucci Lunettes 1948 is one of the two optical retail companies that resulted from a family split in 2005. Claudio and his brother Fabio divided between them a network of more than 20 stores in Western Sicily. Fabio kept 12 stores, renaming them as Angiolucci Occhiali. The two family chains have been competing against each other and against Randazzo, which has 20 stores in Sicily and about 80 others in the rest of Italy, mostly obtained through acquisitions.

The company behind Angiolucci Lunettes 1948, which also runs a 4-star hotel in the center of Catania, had a turnover of about €5 million in 2006. To make a strong statement in its major market, Angiolucci Lunettes 1948 opened early last year a big 1,300-square-meter flagship store, embedded in a historical landmark in Catania, bought by Angiolucci in 2006. It carries 22 collections of eyewear on three floors, featuring an Oakley shop-in-shop and one of Cartier's four eyewear corners in Europe. The structure is also being used for fashion shows, art exhibitions and other cultural events.

Being established in Acireale near Catania, the new jointly owned company, Salmoiraghi & Viganò Sicilia, will have a turnover of €9 million in 2008, and is targeting sales of €11.4 million for 2011. Salmoiraghi is already strong in northern and central Italy. The new transaction gives Salmoiraghi a total of 144 outlets in the south of Italy including the 30 Sicilian stores. This number should climb to 171 by the end of the group's fiscal year in September, with 27 new openings planned in the region.

Alongside the announcement of the Sicilian deal, Salmoiraghi has reported figures for the half of its financial year, which closed on March 31. Turnover was up by 26.7 percent to €86.7 million, including an increase of 4.7 percent on a same-store basis. Operating income before amortization and depreciation (EBITDA) grew by 40 percent to €13 million, representing 15 percent of sales.

The group's outlets, excluding those of Angiolucci, totalled 457 at the end of the period, up from 398 at the end of last September. The group consists of 310 doors trading under the medium-high end Salmoiraghi banner, 130 VistaSi discount stores and 17 outlets trading under the Spacciocchiali banner in the northeast of the country.

The average profitability per store based on EBITDA is 20 percent, which is higher than the group's EBITDA as the calculation per store does not include central overheads. The chain's net profit for the quarter was €2.5 million, or 2.88 percent of turnover. Tabacchi expects the group to close the fiscal year with sales of €185-190 million, one-quarter of which would be in the southern part of the country. He considers that the group has the potential to reach a total of 800 outlets by 2011.