Sover posted 15 percent growth to €18 million in the 1st half of the year. The decision made in 1993 to focus on the East European markets joint ventures with local distributors in Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Romania - has clearly proved its validity in terms of performance. In Romania, where Sover holds 80 percent of the equity in its joint venture, instead of 50 percent elswehere, the firm recently opened 10 new sales outlets and a new 1,500 sq-m office-cum-showroom.

Sover has become one of the major Italian suppliers of eyewear in Eastern Europe, along with Allison and Marcolin. Its subsidiaries also distribute Hoya lenses, Johnson & Johnson contact lenses and Briot optical equipment, for which they also provide technical assistance.

Sover produces all its acetate frames in its factory in the Belluno district of Italy, where the finishing touches are also put to metal frames imported from Eastern Europe. At the recent SILMO show in Paris the company showcased the first sunglass collection produced under the new license with Mariella Burani, an Italian fashion brand that enjoys a strong position in Eastern European markets. The prescription line will follow at MIDO.

Visibilia is another Italian company that is looking sharply to the East for growth. It has focused strongly on Eastern Europe, with good results in Russia, and on the Middle East, where an area manager centralizes distribution from Beirut. In China, Visibilia is in contact with two or three large buying groups coordinating purchases for up to 1,000 outlets.

The Italian company raised its sales by 11.5 percent to €25.1 million for the year ended last June 30. Profit before amortizations ?EBITDA) grew by 80 percent during the 12-month period for Visibilia Italia, and was described as ?significant? for the German and Spanish subsidiaries.

Blue Marine, Trussardi and Iceberg are Visibilia's most important brands, in that order, and they represent 40 percent of the turnover. Another licensed brand, Mandarina Duck, is doing well outside Italy. At the top end of the market, sales of Alessandro Dell'Acqua eyewear have doubled.