After meeting its financial targets for 2006, the Thai Optical Group is ramping up its production of free-form lenses and looking at a stronger role on the Chinese market, where it already has a distributor. It is considering partnerships with companies that would help develop its presence on the higher end of the Chinese and Vietnamese lens markets.

The company now has three lines for free-form finishing of lenses, using Optotech equipment, with a production rate of 300 units per day. The partnerships being envisaged may also involve the retail sector, where a sister company, Better Vision, enjoys a strong position in Thailand and neighboring countries.

Owned by the family of Sawang Pracharktam, chairman and managing director of Thai Optical Group, Better Vision has about 100 stores in Thailand, plus 23 others in Singapore and Malaysia. About half of the frames and sunglasses on sale are from 30 different brands that the company markets in Thailand as a wholesaler for large foreign vendors such as Luxottica, Safilo, Marcolin and Viva International. The balance consists of unbranded products from China.

Better Vision doesn't belong to Thai Optical Group, the big company that surfaces lenses for the local and international market and that went public on the Bangkok stock exchange one year ago. The consolidated results of that company for 2006 show net income of 90 million baht (€1.9m-$2.6m) for the year, up from 53 million baht (€1.1m-$1.5m) the year before.

Total sales increased to 1,424 million baht (€30.7m-$41.2m) from 1,237 million baht, driven by an increase in exports to 1,133 million baht (€24.4m-$32.7m) from 951 million baht, but sales of mineral lenses declined to 116 million baht (€2.5m-$3.4m). The gross margin increased sharply to 279 million baht (€6.0m-$8.1m) from 192 million baht. Operating income before interest and tax (EBIT) reached 134 million baht (€2.9m-$3.9m), up from 93 million baht. A further increase in revenues of 15-20 percent is expected for this year.