EssilorLuxottica’s EU Offer Kick-Starts GrandVision Review

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EssilorLuxottica SA offered antitrust concessions to European Union regulators investigating its takeover of retailer GrandVision NV, kick-starting a merger review stalled since July.

The European Commission set a new April 12 deadline to rule on the deal after the companies supplied information needed for the review, according to the EU’s press office and its website on Tuesday.

The duo’s push for regulatory approval comes after a rocky year when EssilorLuxottica, the maker of Ray-Ban sunglasses, seemed to be reconsidering its agreed 7.3 billion-euro ($8.8 billion) purchase of its Dutch rival. The Franco-Italian company was worried about the way the Covid-19 crisis has affected GrandVision’s business as shops were shuttered, people said in December.

EU regulators declined to comment on what the companies are promising to do to allay concerns. Merging companies typically offer to sell overlapping units to address worries that a deal could bolster market power.

EssilorLuxottica offered to to sell assets in three EU countries as part of the proposed concessions, Reuters reported, citing a person with knowledge of the EU review.

Grandvision said last month it supported EssilorLuxottica’s aim to win regulatory approval for the deal by July.

A spokesman for EssilorLuxottica declined to comment. A spokeswoman for GrandVision declined to comment on details of the package as it’s confidential. GrandVision remains “committed” to supporting completion of the transaction, she added.

The EU flagged concerns in February last year to check whether EssilorLuxottica, the world’s largest supplier of eyewear, would try to increase prices or degrade its supply to retailers that would compete with its own stores and those of GrandVision.

Officials are also looking at how merging the two companies’ retail stores will affect competition and whether the combined firm might reduce the range of lenses on sale in GrandVision locations.

Regulators stopped the clock ticking on their review in July, saying the companies hadn’t supplied data they had asked for.

EssilorLuxottica also started court proceedings that month against GrandVision to obtain information on how the company was managing its business through the crisis. EssilorLuxottica said the target had failed to provide the requested details after repeated requests. GrandVision said it disagrees with the demands, and a Dutch court later ruled in its favor.

EssilorLuxottica is trying to solidify its global market position by adding GrandVision’s network of European eyewear chains. The planned acquisition would add more than 7,000 stores, selling lower-priced eyewear through chains such as Brilleland and For Eyes in more than 40 countries.

The deal has already been unconditionally approved in the U.S., Russia and Colombia.

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