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Exclusive: EssilorLuxottica’s €7.2 billion Dutch deal faces full EU probe – sources

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EssilorLuxottica’s <ESLX.PA> 7.2 billion euro ($8 billion) bid for Dutch opticians group GrandVision <GVNV.AS> faces a full-scale EU antitrust investigation after it declined to offer concessions to address concerns, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

EssilorLuxottica, formed last year from the merger of French lens maker Essilor and Italian eyewear group Luxottica, gave up the chance to offer concessions on Thursday, the deadline for doing so, the European Commission website showed.

Last year’s deal also triggered an investigation and feedback from nearly 4,000 opticians but was eventually cleared unconditionally.

The new deal will give EssilorLuxottica control of more than 7,000 stores worldwide.

The Commission, which will open the full-scale probe following the end of its preliminary review on Feb. 6, and EssilorLuxottica declined to comment. Its shares dipped on the Reuters story and were down 0.8% in early trade.

GrandVision was not immediately available for comment.

The sources said retailers and rival lens makers had expressed concerns to the EU competition watchdog. EssilorLuxottica however has pointed to the growing market clout of independent and specialist lens makers.

GrandVision, whose chains include Vision Express in Britain and For Eyes in the United States, sells brands including Varilux lenses and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

EssilorLuxottica’s retail brands include David Clulow opticians, Sunglass Hut and Spectacle Hut.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam and Mathias Blamont in Paris; editing by David Holmes and Jason Neely)