Online glasses retailer MyOptique sells to lens-maker Essilor for close to $160M

European online glasses retailer MyOptique, which operates websites such as Glasses Direct and SunGlasses Shop in the UK and Lensbest in Germany, has been acquired by French lens maker Essilor International.

Sources suggest the price for the acquisition is close to €140M (~$158M) — but a figure has not been officially confirmed.

MyOptique has pulled in some £55 million in VC funding over its eleven years of operation — at current exchange rates that’s around $71M, thanks to Brexit’s impact on the pound sterling exchange rate. So there’s an element of Brexit making a UK company more affordable to a European buyer here, although we understand this specific transaction was in train well before the referendum result at the end of June so wasn’t a significant factor in the deal.

MyOptique, which reports annual revenues of £56 million, was founded back in 2005. Investors cashing out in the sale include Index Ventures, Highland Europe, Acton Capital Partners, Beringea, Cipio Partners and Korys.

Highland Europe’s Fergal Mullen admitted it took “a bit longer than expected” to achieve meaningful scale with MyOptique’s ecommerce play (having invested in 2007), but he couched glasses retailing as one of the hardest ecommerce sectors to get right — given it’s not just a question of casual fashion and fit but a highly personal style decision and a prescription item.

“Like all ecommerce businesses you just have to achieve scale and you have to achieve profitable unit economics before anybody’s going to be interested in acquiring the business,” he added, pointing to other long-time-in-the-baking European ecommerce exits, such as Privalia and PhotoBox, as “setting the line” for this type of startup exit.

“They’ve done a great job,” he added of MyOptique. “They’ve built a pan-European business across all aspects of the optical sector from prescription eyewear, to soft lenses, to fashion… It’s really a good story, and a real European story.”

Post-acquisition, MyOptique’s management will remain in place, the two companies said today.

The business will also continue to operate under its existing brands — with the focus for the acquisition being on leveraging Essilor’s global supply chain and operating businesses to expand the reach and efficiency of the MyOptique business across Europe.

Commenting on the acquisition in a statement, Maurice Helfgott, chairman of MyOptique, added: “The business has achieved pan European scale, is growing fast and had a number of strategic options for its next stage. Joining Essilor, the world leader in ophthalmic optics, was by far the most compelling one.”

For its part Essilor said the acquisition will enable it to broaden its online footprint to central Europe, as well as bolstering its capabilities in “multi-category, multi-brand models”.

The company reported consolidated revenue of more than €6.7 billion last year. It sells its products in more than 100 countries, operating 32 plants, 490 prescription laboratories and edging facilities, and five R&D centers around the world.