The optical products group of BMC Industries reported break-even operating earnings for the 4th quarter of 2002 on 24 percent lower revenues of $21.7 million, as compared to a negative operating margin of 17 percent in the same period one year earlier. The gross margin improved to 8.7 percent from a negative margin of 3.3 percent. BMC's management says the reorganization of this division is nearly completed now, and service levels have improved dramatically.

The division suffered sales declines of $2.7 million in polycarbonate lenses, $2.1 million in plastic lenses and $1.4 million in glass lenses in the quarter, due in part to continued bottlenecks in the supply chain. On the other hand, the sales mix turned out to be more profitable, following the discontinuation of SunSport non-prescription lenses, and polycarbonate manufacturing costs became more competititive. Also, Vision-Ease benefited in the latest quarter from the introduction of a new mirror-coated polycarbonate sun lens and its new proprietary polarization system, which uses a melanin-based film. More products will be launched in 2003.

For the full 2002 financial year, BMC's optical products division posted an operating loss of $3.1 million on 16 percent lower sales of $110.1 million. Including other operations, the BMC group's total sales declined by 18 percent to $248.1 million. The group reported a net consolidated loss of $61.9 million, up from $22.6 million the year before. Even excluding extraordinary restructuring charges, the group's net loss increased to $9.6 million from $4.3 million.