London: Eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica SA is in talks to take control of GrandVision NV in a deal that values the smaller Dutch eyewear retailer at about €7.1 billion (Dh29.25 billion).
EssilorLuxottica is holding talks with GrandVision’s controlling shareholder, HAL, to buy the firm’s approximately 77% stake, HAL said in a statement on Wednesday in response to a Bloomberg report. No agreement has been reached and any deal would be subject to regulatory approval, the investor said.
An acquisition, which would vastly expand EssilorLuxottica’s global store network, could value GrandVision at about €28 a share, the Schiphol-based company said in a separate statement.
Shares of GrandVision jumped 8.8% to close at €22.90 in Amsterdam on Wednesday, giving the company a market value of €5.8 billion. EssilorLuxottica dropped 1.4% in Paris.
By adding GrandVision, which sells prescription glasses, contact lenses and other eyecare products, the owner of Oakley and Ray-Ban would gain more than 7,000 stores in more than 40 countries.
GrandVision operates under retail brands including Brilleland and For Eyes. In addition to its well-known sunglass labels, EssilorLuxottica owns store chains like LensCrafters and Pearle Vision.
HAL is majority-owned by the Dutch billionaire Van der Vorm family and traces its roots to the 1873 founding of the Holland America Line in Rotterdam. Its current incarnation dates to 1989 when the owners sold the cruise line to Carnival and started an investment company with the proceedings. HAL holds large stakes in listed and non-listed companies, with GrandVision its largest holding, and has a market value of more than €11 billion euros. It also has a $3 billion stake in Koninklijke Vopak NV and holds about $626 million worth of SBM Offshore NV.
EssilorLuxottica’s interest in GrandVision comes only two months after the company defused a leadership dispute that weighed on its shares. The eyecare maker, the result of a merger of France’s Essilor and Italy’s Luxottica, said in May that it would seek a new chief executive officer — an effort to find a compromise between Chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio and Vice-Chairman Hubert Sagnieres.
The dispute flared up after the companies sealed their $53 billion (Dh194.93 billion) merger last year, with Del Vecchio saying he wanted to appoint his deputy as CEO and Sagnieres countering that the Italian was making false statements in an effort to seize control of the group.
Before Bloomberg reported the takeover interest, the Dutch company’s shares had risen 9% over the past 12 months, in contrast to a 4.4% decline for EssilorLuxottica, which has a market value of €51 billion.
Del Vecchio is EssilorLuxottica’s biggest shareholder with a 32% stake. Born in 1935, he grew up poor in Milan. His widowed mother sent him to an orphanage when he was seven, and he became apprenticed at a tool and dye manufacturer in Milan when he was 14.
In the late 1950s, Del Vecchio moved to the town of Agordo, in the Alps north of Venice, where he started a small business making eyeglass frames. He founded Luxottica in 1961 with 14 workers on land he got free from the town in a bid to stimulate the local economy.