EU approves Ray-Ban maker's merger with French firm


Brussels (AFP)

The EU on Tuesday approved the proposed merger between French lens-maker Essilor and Luxottica, the Italian eyewear company that produces Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm and regulator, said it found no evidence the tie-up would hurt competition after it carried out a survey of 4,000 opticians across Europe.

"As the result of the market test did not support our initial concerns, we can let this merger go ahead unconditionally," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

As soon as the merger was announced in January 2017, analysts had warned of possible reluctance by competition authorities over a deal that would bring together a major lens producer with a leading manufacturer of frames.

When it launched the probe, the commission said it was concerned that the merged company could use Luxottica's powerful brands to convince opticians to buy Essilor lenses and cut other lens-makers out of the market.

The deal had been expected to conclude late last year or early 2018, creating a combined group to be known as EssilorLuxottica, with annual sales of more than 15 billion euros ($17.7 billion) and a market value of nearly 50 billion euros.

Founded in 1961, Luxottica owns the Ray-Ban, Oakley and Sunglass Hut brands and licences for designer frames such as Giorgio Armani, Chanel and Ralph Lauren.