The Province

B.C. eyeglass maker sold to French firm

- PHIL SERAFINO BLOOMBERG

PARIS — Essilor Internatio­nal SA, the world’s biggest maker of eyeglass lenses, agreed to buy Coastal Contacts Inc. for $430 million to expand in online retailing in North America.

Coastal stockholde­rs will receive $12.45 a share in cash, Charentonl­e-Pont, France-based Essilor said Thursday. That’s 20 per cent more than Wednesday’s closing price in Toronto Stock Exchange trading. Coastal rose above the offer price, indicating some investors expect a higher bid.

Buying Vancouver-based Coastal will give Essilor another five million customers, the companies said. Coastal operates sites including Coastal.com that sell contact lenses and glasses in Canada, the U.S., Sweden, Norway and elsewhere. Online sales account for about four per cent of the global vision-care market, and will grow at a double-digit rate for the foreseeabl­e future, Essilor said.

“Whilst Essilor has had a presence in online retail for some time with Framesdire­ct.com, this represents a significan­t step up in the channel and interestin­gly coincides with a demand from some markets for a stronger online sales channel,” Alexander Kleban, an analyst at Barclays Plc in London, said in a report to clients.

Roger Hardy, Coastal’s chairman, chief executive officer and founder, owns 10.7 per cent of the company’s shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He and other officers and directors, holding 16 per cent of outstandin­g stock, agreed to vote their shares in favour of the deal, Coastal said in a statement.

Coastal rose 20 per cent to $12.49 at the close in Toronto. If Coastal receives a higher offer, Essilor has the right to match it or receive a terminatio­n fee of $16 million, Coastal said.

The deal was approved unanimousl­y by the full board, Coastal said.

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