Luxottica CEO exits eyewear giant ahead of Essilor merger

Luxottica’s planned merger with France’s Essilor still needs antitrust approval in the US, China and Brazil. (Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2017
0

Luxottica CEO exits eyewear giant ahead of Essilor merger

MILAN: Italy’s Luxottica has parted ways with its fourth chief executive in three years as Chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio prepares the eyewear group he founded for a planned merger with France’s Essilor.
Luxottica, the biggest maker of spectacles, agreed in January to merge with the top lens manufacturer to create a €46 billion (SR203.65 billion) group with a global shop network and brands from Ray Ban to Giorgio Armani and Burberry.
Luxottica said on Friday Massimo Vian, CEO for product and operations would step down three months before the expiry of the current board’s mandate as it simplified its structure ahead of the merger.
Vian’s responsibilities will be handed to both Del Vecchio and his close aide Deputy Chairman Francesco Milleri, who will also take on the position of CEO.
“The post-merger integration of Essilor and Luxottica is fast approaching,” EXANE BNP Paribas said in a note.
EU regulators are set to clear the merger without asking for concessions, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The deal still needs antitrust approval in the US, China and Brazil.
Del Vecchio, 82, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday that Milleri would replace him at the merged group if anything happened to him. Milleri, 58, started working with Luxottica as an IT consultant and earned the trust of Del Vecchio, becoming over time his right-hand man.
Del Vecchio and Essilor CEO Hubert Sagnières are set to share powers at EssilorLuxottica for the first three years as, respectively, executive chairman and executive vice-chairman.
Sagnières, 62, told the Financial Times last week the group would look to hire a chief executive at some point.
“Sagnières has ruled himself out — as too old — which is a not too subtle indication that Del Vecchio is not in the game either,” EXANE said. “Investors shouldn’t expect a smooth post-merger integration path.”
Del Vecchio returned to the helm of Luxottica in 2014, taking on executive powers as chairman. One of Italy’s richest men, Del Vecchio is also known for his top-down management style, taking key decisions without broad consultation.
He has presided over an overhaul of the business he founded in 1961, boosting digital investments while also expanding the retail network, centralizing distribution in China and fighting online discounts of top brand Ray Ban in the US.
He owns 62.5 percent of Luxottica and will be the single biggest shareholder in the merged group
“In the past three years ... I’ve fixed and improved Luxottica to keep up with the times. And I was able to do it thanks to Francesco Milleri ... he shared every important decision,” Del Vecchio told Corriere.
Vian had been appointed at the top within a dual-CEO structure put in place in October 2014, after Luxottica lost two bosses in six weeks due to frictions with Del Vecchio. Vian had remained as the only CEO after co-head Adil Mehboob Khan left in January 2016.
An engineer who had joined in 2005, Vian will pocket a gross €6.3 million in addition to severance pay, Luxottica said.


At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

Updated 21 October 2018
0

At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

  • The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July
  • By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region

BEIRUT: By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region as it looks to boost its war-ravaged economy.
The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July from rebels as part of a military offensive that reclaimed swathes of the south of the country.
Syria’s international trade has plummeted during the seven-year civil war, and its foreign reserves have been almost depleted.
The reopening of Nassib after a three-year hiatus, on Oct. 15, is a political victory for the Damascus regime, said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group.
It is “a step toward reintegrating with Syria’s surroundings economically and recapturing the country’s traditional role as a conduit for regional trade,” he said.
The Nassib crossing reopens a direct land route between Syria and Jordan, but also a passage via its southern neighbor to Iraq to the east, and the Gulf to the south.
“For the Syrian government, reopening Nassib is a step toward normalization with Jordan and the broader region, and a blow to US-led attempts to isolate Damascus,” Heller said.
International pressure and numerous rounds of peace talks have failed to stem the fighting in Syria, and seven years in the regime has gained the military upper hand in the conflict.
Assad’s forces now control nearly two-thirds of the country, after a series of Russia-backed offensives against rebels.

 

Syria faces a mammoth task to revive its battered economy.
The country’s exports plummeted by more than 90 percent in the first four years of the conflict alone, from $7.9 billion to $631 million, according to a World Bank report last year.
The Syria Report, an economic weekly, said Nassib’s reopening would reconnect Syria with an “important market” in the Gulf.
But, it warned, “it is unlikely Syrian exports will recover anywhere close to the 2011 levels in the short and medium terms because the country’s production capacity has been largely destroyed.”
For now, at least, Nassib’s reopening is good news for Syrian tradesmen forced into costlier, lengthier maritime shipping since 2015.
Among them, Syrian businessman Farouk Joud was looking forward to being able to finally import goods from Jordan and the UAE via land.
Before 2015, “it would take a maximum of three days for us to receive goods, but via the sea it takes a whole month,” he told AFP.
Importing goods until recently has involved a circuitous maritime route from the Jordanian port of Aqaba via the Suez Canal, and up to a regime-held port in the northwest of the country.
“It costs twice as much as land transport via Nassib,” Joud said.
Syrian parliament member Hadi Sharaf was equally enthusiastic about fresh opportunities for Syrian exports.
“Exporting (fruit and) vegetables will have a positive economic impact, especially for much-demanded citrus fruit to Iraq,” he told AFP.
Before Syria’s war broke out in 2011, neighboring Iraq was the first destination of Syria’s non-oil exports.
The parliamentarian also hoped the revived trade route on Syria’s southern border would swell state coffers with much-needed dollars.
Before the conflict, the Nassib crossing raked in $2 million in customs fees, Sharaf said.
Last month, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said fees at Nassib for a four-ton truck had been increased from $10 to $62.
Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted due to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, the World Bank said.
And the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war.
Lebanese businessmen are also delighted, as they can now reach other countries in the region by sending lorries through Syria and its southern border crossing.
Lebanon’s farmers “used to export more than 70 percent of their produce to Arab countries via this strategic crossing,” said Bechara Al-Asmar, head of Lebanon’s labor union.
Despite recent victories, Damascus still controls only half of the 19 crossings along Syria’s lengthy borders with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
Damascus and Baghdad have said the Albukamal crossing with Iraq in eastern Syria will open soon, but did not give a specific date.
Beyond trade, there is even hope that the Nassib crossing reopening might bring some tourists back to Syria.
A Jordanian travel agency recently posted on Facebook that it was organizing daily trips to the Syrian capital by “safe and air-conditioned” bus from Monday.
“Who among us doesn’t miss the good old days in Syria?” it said.

FACTOID

BACKGROUND

Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted owing to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, while the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war in 2011.