Grand Met sells opticians to US retailer for pounds 140m

Click to follow
Grand Metropolitan has sold its opticians business, Pearle Vision, to the US group Cole National Corporation for pounds 140m. The deal closes an unhappy chapter for Grand Metropolitan, which acquired the business in 1985 only to find it crippled by a crowded market and cut-throat competition.

Grand Met held on to the company to improve Pearle's performance before putting it up for sale earlier this year.

Pearle has 875 outlets, including 692 in North America and the Caribbean and 183 in Europe. It recently edged back into profit. In the year to September 1995, Pearle recorded profits of pounds 10m on sales on pounds 232m

Analysts said the price was as expected compared to Pearle's net assets of pounds 150m. The deal will be completed in November and include a pounds 265m goodwill write-off.

Cole National Corporation is a leading retailer of eyewear products thorough its Cole Vision division. Pearle trades under the names Pearle Vision Centre, Pearle Vision Express, Pearle Eyelab Express and Pearle Eye & Tech.

Commenting on the sale, John McGrath, chief executive of Grand Metropolitan, said: "We have achieved significant improvement in Pearle's business performance over the last three years. However, Pearle does not fit our strategy of focusing on market-leading food and drink businesses."

Earlier this month Grand Metropolitan began a clear-out of its lesser- known European brands when it sold its Erasco food business in Germany to Campbell Soups of the US for pounds 140m. It also hung a "for sale" sign over a raft of under-performing names, including Shippams pastes and Memory Lane cakes.

It has renamed the division Pillsbury Europe and is moving its head office from Paris to Uxbridge. City analysts expect the combined business to fetch between pounds 50m and pounds 100m. Tomkins, owner of Mr Kipling cakes, has been tipped as a possible buyer of the Memory Lane business.

The strategy is to focus the food business on main brands Pillsbury, Haagen Dazs, Old El Paso and Green Giant and to free up capital to concentrate on higher-margin, powerful brands.

There is consistent speculation that the Burger King fast food business may be sold, though the company denies any such plans. Grand Met shares closed 5.5p higher at 476.5p.