LVMH-owned Thélios reportedly interested in buying Safilo’s Italian factory
At the start of the year, Italian eyewear group Safilo, controlled by Dutch investment fund Hal, indicated it was interested in selling its main factory, located in Longarone in the province of Belluno, in north-eastern Italy’s eyewear manufacturing district. Safilo then commissioned consultancy firm BDO to draw up a shortlist of potential buyers. Eyewear producer Thélios, owned by world luxury number one LVMH, is said to be in contention to buy the factory and hire part of its employees.
According to Italian daily paper Repubblica, which first reported the news, Thélios could hire up to 250 of the 468 employees currently working at Safilo’s site. Marcolin, another major industry player, is said to be ready to get involved too, taking on another 50 of them.
The parties are refusing to comment, but the scenario does seem plausible. Safilo's Longarone factory is specialised in manufacturing top-end metallic frames, and until not so long ago it used to produce the eyewear collections by Dior and Fendi, two labels owned by LVMH, whose eyewear lines are now manufactured internally by Thélios, having been produced under licence by Safilo for a long time.
Besides, the factory is located close to Thélios's headquarters, which opened in 2018 in a brand-new 20,000-square-metre building in Longarone, to which a second was added in 2020, while a third facility is already on the cards. If Thélios were to buy the Safilo factory, it would therefore be able to take advantage of an existing facility with trained personnel.
Thélios has been expanding at sustained pace ever since it was created. It currently develops, manufactures and distributes the eyewear collections of 10 LVMH labels, to which it recently added those by Bulgari, whose production line could potentially be deployed, if the acquisition were to go ahead, in Safilo’s upgraded site. Thélios's brand portfolio currently includes Bulgari, Dior, Fendi, Celine, Givenchy, Loewe, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Berluti, Fred and Rimowa, whose eyewear is distributed in their respective monobrand stores. It also produces part of Louis Vuitton’s collections. LVMH's labels have been given the choice whether to work with Thélios or not.
In the meantime, negotiations are ongoing between Safilo’s management, union representatives and local authorities, to decide on the future of the Longarone site’s nearly 470 employees, whose jobs are at risk. The next meeting is scheduled for June 8.
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