MILAN — “See more, be more, live life to its fullest. We will be focused on fighting poor vision, which is the world’s largest disability.”
That is EssilorLuxottica’s mission, explained Hilary Halper, the co-chief financial officer of the new eyewear behemoth created from the merger of Essilor and Luxottica on Monday, the first day of the mandatory exchange offer launched by the company on all the outstanding shares of Luxottica Group SpA it does not already own. Halper was flanked by Stefano Grassi, co-cfo.
EssilorLuxottica received one strong vote of confidence over the weekend from Giorgio Armani, who agreed to tender his shares into the mandatory exchange offer. Armani, a longtime shareholder in Luxottica, which produces and distributes the designer’s eyewear collections under a licensing agreement, is tendering more than 22.5 million shares. This represents 4.64 percent of Luxottica’s share capital and voting rights. After the offer, Armani’s stake in EssilorLuxottica will be of 2.36 percent. As reported, Luxottica’s executive chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio’s family holding Delfin is submitting its shares in the group, or 62.42 percent of the total, at a ratio of one share in Luxottica for each 0.4613 Essilor share.
Armani’s approval is echoed by other fashion brands that have licensing agreements with Luxottica, Grassi said. “We’ve seen a full support of designers, who are curious about the developments and what can be done. They see the benefits and potential opportunities lying ahead,” he said. “And to be sure, Armani tendering his shares was a strong and positive signal.”
EssilorLuxottica will initiate the search for a chief executive officer in January, a process that could take as long as the end of 2020. But Grassi said “it is not an issue, the governance is defined and there is no anxiety over this.” As reported, Del Vecchio will take on the role of executive chairman of the group, while Hubert Sagnières, will become executive vice chairman with the same powers of the chairman. Grassi and Halper were named co-cfo’s on Oct. 1, a day before the group was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange Euronext. Asked about a possible listing in Milan, Grassi said he did not believe this would happen.
Halper and Grassi presented the numbers that back up the confidence in the newly formed powerhouse, while insisting on the vertical integration and the shared synergies of the group. “We are extremely positive on the combination and its rationale, and synergies; this is what interests us and the integration of two complementary businesses,” Grassi said.
Essilor and Luxottica combined will have pro-forma 2017 sales of more than 16 billion euros; income from operations of 1.6 billion euros; free cash flow of 2 billion euros and a net debt of 2.4 billion euros.
The integration is expected to yield synergies estimated in a net yearly contribution of between 420 million and 600 million euros in earnings before interests and taxes in the medium-term. Half will be ascribed to an increase in sales expected to be in a range of 200 million to 300 million euros. The other half will be driven by an optimization of costs, of which 150 million to 200 million euros will be from improvements in terms of logistics and supply chain, and 70 million to 100 million euros will be derived from a reduction in general and administrative expenses, as well as the purchase of materials.
Halper also said 2.5 billion people globally still have no access to eyesight correction and that 6 billion people are unequipped.
In addition to its own online store, EssilorLuxottica will rely on 10,000 stores, of which 8,500 are directly owned and 1,800 franchised, and 150,000 employees.