Vendex, the Dutch retail company, has sold Hans Anders, the largest chain of optical stores in the Netherlands along with 5 other subsidiaries to CVC Capital Partners. The total price of e394 million values the package of divested properties at 7.8 times annual Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) and 5.6 times Ebit (earnings before interest and tax), and generating a capital gain of e145 million on the seller's books.

The entire business divested by Vendex had a turnover of about e714 million for the full year ended on Jan. 31, but the seller and the buyer both refuse to break down the figures. The transaction should be completed in early July. The London-based private equity firm says it intends to retain Hans Anders' current management and to invest in the company's growth, but its precise intentions remain unclear.

The Hans Anders group sold to CVC operates through 2 concepts in the Netherlands and Belgium. With 224 stores in its home market and another 20 in Belgium, the Hans Anders format focuses on the most competitive segment of the market. The formula is based on the simple principle that each frame is worth 75 Dutch guilders or 34 euros.

The second concept is Het Huis Opticiens, an upmarket chain with 137 stores in the Netherlands. At the same time, the Hans Anders Group sells hearing aids through its own stores as well as the 29 Van Boxtel stores it has recently taken over from another Vendex subsidiary.

Vendex acquired a 33 percent stake in Hans Anders in 1995 and took control of the company by buying the rest of the shares one year later. At that time, Het Huis Opticiens was called Rinck Brillen, and it's controlled by the Hans Anders group since 1989. Ironically, Rinck Brillen previously belonged to Vendex, and thus returned to the company through the takeover of Hans Anders.

Vendex had placed the highly profitable Hans Anders chain up for sale a few months ago, but it apparently failed to elicit an interesting offer right away. In the end, Vendex decided to sell also other retail units, such as the Perry Sport chain of sporting goods stores and the Scapino chain of shoe shops (more on these in Shoe Intelligence and Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe) following a 92 percent drop in net earnings last year and on the eve of an annual meeting where it was facing a potential challenge from one of its most vocal shareholders, Guy Wyser-Pratte.

The divestiture is part of Vendex' new strategy of concentrating on its well-known department stores and a smaller number of retail sectors. Last November, Vendex sold its famous American toy chain, FAO Schwartz. In March, it expanded its own do-it-yourself home furnishing business by acquiring Brico's operations in Belgium.

Vendex says Hans Anders couldn't take advantage of synergy effects with any of its other chains, and foreign expansion would have been too costly. On top of its Belgian stores, Hans Anders managed to build up a retail network in the UK, but this was sold to Debenhams in 1989.