Exclusive: Luxottica, Essilor tie-up on track for unconditional EU okay - sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italian eyewear maker Luxottica LUX.MI and French lens manufacturer Essilor ESSI.PA are set to win unconditional EU antitrust approval for their 48 billion-euro ($57 billion) merger, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Luxottica name is reflected in a pair of sunglasses in this photo illustration taken in Rome February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Illustration/File Photo

Having had some initial concerns about the deal between Luxottica, the world’s biggest eyeglass frame maker and Essilor, the biggest lens maker, the European Commission is scheduled to decide by March 8 on whether to clear it.

The Commission declined to comment on Thursday. Luxottica also declined to comment.

Luxottica shares last traded up 0.6 percent at 50.75 euros on Thursday, while Essilor closed up 0.3 percent at 112.50 euros.

The deal was worth 46 billion euros when it was unveiled in January but a rise in the share prices has pushed up the value since then to 48 billion euros.

Some rivals and opticians have expressed concerns that the merged company might persuade opticians to buy eyewear and lenses as a package, leveraging on Luxottica’s strong brand portfolio which includes Ray Ban, Oakley and Persol as well as licensed names such as Chanel and Armani.

The companies have told the EU competition enforcer that this was unlikely and also cited buoyant competition.

Exane BNP Paribas said the imminent EU approval meant that the deal looks set to be cleared by competition authorities in all major markets without material concessions.

The deal has already secured the regulatory green light in Australia, Canada, Colombia, India, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan. U.S regulators are also expected to give the go-ahead.

However, the authorities in Singapore and Brazil are taking a closer look.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Julia Fioretti, additional reporting by Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Simon Jessop in London; editing by Philip Blenkinsop