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Vision Group Holding reports half yearly net profit decrease of 37% PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Vision Group Holding's revenue increased 2% to $55.1m compared to the first half of 2008, with non-discretionary revenue up 6% and discretionary revenue down 17%. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) decreased 19% to $12.3m. On a normalised basis, EBIT was $13.9m, down 10% on the prior year (normalised EBIT excludes senior executive termination expenses). The normalised EBIT margin was 25% for the period, compared to 29% in the first half of 2008, although, EBIT margins for non-discretionary revenue remained stable. Normalised Net Profit after Tax decreased by 24% to $6.2m. Free cash flow improved primarily due to tighter management of working capital and timing of cash collections.

Whilst discretionary/refractive revenues have declined, Vision Group continues to experience solid growth in the treatment of non-discretionary conditions (e.g. retina, cataract and glaucoma). Refractive revenues now account for 15% of total revenues. Whilst the decline in refractive revenues has impacted EBIT margins due to the high margins of this procedure, continued focus and investment on driving non-discretionary revenue streams will help insulate Vision Group from the more consumer sensitive revenue streams of refractive surgery in future periods.

The Board considers that maintenance of balance sheet strength and flexibility is a high priority for the company in the current economic climate and has declared an interim dividend, fully franked, of 2.5 cents per share payable on 8 April 2009. The reduced dividend will enable the pay down of debt in future periods and help support prudent investment in non-discretionary growth opportunities.

The Vision Group strategy of locating and investing in clinics in regions with aging and growing population demographics continues to drive solid growth in non-discretionary revenues. The Company continues to invest in new Doctor Partners to support this strategy and Victorian total revenues grew by 11% with strong growth in non-discretionary revenues. Queensland and New South Wales non-discretionary revenue growth was also maintained.

Vision Group is also well positioned for longer term growth of non-discretionary revenues, with the Vision Eye Institute Varsity Lakes commencing full consulting services and positioned to capture the growing retinal opportunity in South East Queensland. Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss in Australia and the Vision Eye Institute’s new facilities are equipped with the latest technology for treating and managing this condition. Vision Group’s Rivercity retinal practice is also growing, with an expanded and new, state of the art retinal clinic opening this March in Brisbane.

Vision Group continues to develop its base of doctors with the number of Doctor Partners growing from 40 to 46. The growth in new partners is coming from younger ophthalmologists who are building practices with growing patient bases and practice revenues. Vision Group now has an improved balance between doctors with developing and established revenue streams.

Against a background of the global financial crisis and slowing economic growth, Vision Group is focused on improving operational performance and margin improvement to help off-set the impact of slowing discretionary or refractive revenues. In H2:09 Vision Group has implemented a head count freeze and realigned investment strategies to maximise EBIT and reduce debt. Along with a common branding strategy, Vision Group is reviewing promotional investment and has reduced traditional “above the line” advertising and promotional investment and has implemented a more cost effective on-line marketing program. Despite difficult economic circumstances, Vision Group has also seen an improvement in cash flow resulting from better management of working capital and timing of cash collections.
Childhood outdoor play time may prevent nearsightedness PDF
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Ophthalmology and Optometry
Monday, 16 February 2009
In a new research study reported in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, it was found that children who have regular outdoor play time may be less susceptible than their peers to develop nearsightedness.

In several studies researchers concluded that children who had adequate time to play outdoors in daylight hours usually experienced better distance vision than those who had more indoor activities.

The reason for this have not been made clear yet, though the children’s physical activity levels did not seem to play a role in it.

The researchers speculated that exposure to sunlight was the determining factor, as simply being in the sunlight often makes children (or anyone, for that matter) focus on objects in the distance.
Aeffe announces unilateral termination of license agreements with Elite Group PDF
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Friday, 13 February 2009
Aeffe Group, taking into consideration the financial situation of the licensee and with the aim of safeguarding its brands, has decided to terminate unilaterally the license agreements with Elite Group Spa for the production and distribution of Alberta Ferretti and Pollini glasses.

The anticipated termination of the license agreements does not imply the payment of any penalty for Aeffe Group.

Aeffe Group underlines that the business generated by the license agreements with Elite Group Spa represents approximately 0.1% of its total turnover in 2008.
Safilo reports net sales decrease of 3.6% for FY2008 PDF
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Friday, 13 February 2009
Net sales of Safilo Group reached, in 2008, 1,147.8 million Euro, a decrease of 3.6% compared to the 1,190.4 million Euro registered in 2007. At constant exchange rates sales were instead in line with the previous year. In the fourth quarter Safilo achieved revenues for 282.1 million Euro, a slight decline of 1.6% compared to the same period of 2007. At constant exchange rates the slowdown in the fourth quarter was equal to 3.6%.

In the geographical breakdown, America achieved over the year an increase of 6.7% at constant exchange rates (while performance was flat at current exchange rates), thanks to the contribution of the Mexican Sunglass Island stores, acquired at the beginning of 2008, the new Solstice stores opened during the period, and the good performance registered by the prescription frame collections sold through the independent opticians channel.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, the Group instead experienced a decrease at constant exchange rates of 7.3% (-1.5% at current exchange rates) which confirmed the increased caution in purchases seen during the most part of the Christmas season and in particular in the U.S. sunglasses market.

The European market was weak for the Group throughout the year which ended with a decrease of 4.7%, while in the fourth quarter the difficulties encountered in particular in Spain, the U.K. and Northern Europe led to a performance in the period of -5.5%. Asia, which grew in the year by 2.3% at constant exchange rates (-1.3% at current exchange rates), registered a fall in the fourth quarter at constant exchange rates of 14.2% (-6.4% at current exchange rates). As in the third quarter, the marked fall in the Japanese market and in duty-free sales in the region greatly affected the performance of the area, which was further compounded by the slowdown in the growth rate of some of the important emerging markets such as India and South Korea.

Performance by distribution channel highlights an annual decrease in the wholesale channel of 4.0% at constant exchange rates (-7.2% at current exchange rates) which has suffered, in all the main reference markets, from the general consumer tendency to purchase eyewear collections with more competitive price ranges. In 2008 wholesale turnover reached 1,040 million Euro compared to 1,120.7 million Euro in the previous year. In the fourth quarter of 2008 wholesale turnover amounted to 252.3 million Euro, adecrease of 9.0% at constant exchange rates (-6.7 % at current exchange rates). The average price of the products purchased by the Group’s main direct clients, opticians, department stores and purchase chains decreased also during the last part of the year.

Strong growth in volumes over the period was achieved by the house brand Carrera, while sales volumes of sunglasses showed a general decrease in all the main European and American markets.

The retail business, which counted 321 directly operated stores at the end of December (180 stores in December 2007), registered an increase of 63.7 % at constant exchange rates over the year (54.6 % at current exchange rates), thanks above all to the two acquisitions concluded at the beginning of the year in Australia and Mexico (for a total of 77 stores).

In the United States, the sunglass chain Solstice recorded an improvement in sales at constant exchange rates, thanks to the contribution deriving from the new stores, while the Spanish Loop Vision stores suffered from the slowdown of the Spanish market.

In the fourth quarter, the retail channel grew by 85.1%, while the performance at constant exchange rates, calculated for stores trading for at least a year, was negative by almost 12% in the quarter, and by 4 % in the year.
Marchon Eyewear announces senior executive appointment PDF
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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Marchon Eyewear recently announced the appointment of Claudio Gottardi (picture) as President of Marchon and CEO of Marchon International. Gottardi will have responsibility for the company's brand management, marketing, design, product development, new business development and the company's international business outside the western hemisphere.

Gottardi will report directly to Al Berg, Marchon's Chief Executive Officer. Continuing in their current roles, reporting to Berg, will be Larry Roth, EVP Western hemisphere Sales and Marty Fox, Chief Operating Officer.

Prior to Marchon, Gottardi was with the Safilo Group for 23 years, serving in various executive positions including Co-CEO of Safilo Group and CEO of Safilo USA and Solstice Marketing, Safilo's retail sunglass chain.

The addition of Gottardi to Marchon's executive team will allow Berg to focus more on Marchon's long-term strategy and the development of new ways to support Marchon's global customer base. Gottardi received a degree in Electronic Engineering and a minor in Economics from the University of Padova in Italy.
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