image: Prada

image: Prada

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has closed its investigation of the proposed $58 billion merger between Luxottica and Essilor. The deal between the eyewear giants has made headlines for what many have alleged creates a “monopoly” on eyewear and also “sparked regulatory concerns that it may lead to price rises or mean retailers are forced to buy both lens and eyewear from the merged company,” per Reuters, leading to an array of investigations, including one spearheaded by European Union antitrust regulators, which was initiated when the two companies failed to provide requested data.

The FTC, the American government entity tasked with promoting consumer protection, and eliminating and preventing anticompetitive business practices, said in a statement this week that the evidence it uncovered in its investigation of the merger “did not support a conclusion that Essilor’s proposed acquisition of Luxottica violates federal antitrust laws.” 

According to the statement, “FTC staff extensively investigated every plausible theory and used aggressive assumptions to assess the likelihood of competitive harm. The investigation exhaustively examined information provided by a wide and deep swath of market participants, as well as the parties’ own documents and data. The evidence did not support a conclusion that Essilor’s proposed acquisition of Luxottica may be substantially to lessen competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.”

In November, European Union antitrust regulators also cleared Luxottica and Essilor in its investigation into the parties’ $58 billion merger. On September 26, the European Commission launched a full-scale investigation into the merger that sees Italy’s Luxottica – which maintains a brand portfolio that includes practically every well-known brand, such as Ray-Ban, Persol, and Oliver Peoples, as well as the rights to design, manufacture, and distribute eyewear of luxury brands including Burberry, Prada, Chanel, Miu Miu, and Versace – pair with French lens manufacturer Essilor in “an effort to meet growing global demand for corrective lenses, sunglasses and luxury eyewear.”

According to the European Commission, it closed its investigation on October 25, telling Reuters in an email: “This procedure in merger investigations is activated if the parties fail to provide, in a timely fashion, an important piece of information that the Commission has requested from them.”

As WWD noted in March, “By supplying the two main elements of the final product [Luxottica manufactures eyeglass frames, and Essilor produces lenses], Luxottica/Essilor will essentially control the entire supply chain in the eyewear market. This will also likely give them leverage over the booming global eyewear market, which is expected to reach a value of $130 billion by the end of 2018.”

“For brands, this means access to fewer licensing partners, which means fewer distinct design directions to offer brands. The market will thus be flooded with a limited range of generic designs from one company posing as multiple companies,” Andrew Lipovsky, founder and chief executive officer of eyewear licensor, Eponym, told WWD.