De Rigo announces today that it has reached agreement to create the second largest optical chain in the UK, through the merger of its Dollond & Aitchison business with Boots Opticians.
The combined business will have around 690 branches, including around 210 franchises, and will directly employ more than 5,000 people. It is envisaged that the Dollond & Aitchison
branches will, in due course, adopt the Boots Opticians brand. Both businesses have a strong heritage and an excellent reputation for service and customer care, providing a great
opportunity to combine these strengths under one brand with a differentiated product offering.
The new Boots Opticians business will:

- Continue to focus upon service and customer care, building upon the strong heritage and reputation of each business
- Create scale and competitive strength that will underpin the ability to offer customers even better value for money
- Maximise the benefits from the trust that customers place in the Boots brand
- Leverage De Rigo's strength as a leading designer of high-quality eyewear
- Deliver enhanced business and financial performance and thereby better career opportunities for employees.

De Rigo, who acquired Dollond & Aitchison 10 years ago, is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of high-quality eyewear, and one of the largest optical retailers in Europe. Alliance Boots is an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group with two core businesses, pharmacy-led health and beauty retailing and pharmaceutical wholesaling. It is privately owned and employs over 110,000* people, with a presence in over 20* countries.
Alliance Boots will hold a controlling stake in the new company which will be jointly owned with De Rigo. It will be run as a stand-alone business and it is proposed that, in due course, the headquarters will be based in Nottingham. Within the new business, Pradip Patel (currently MD of Boots Opticians) will become Chairman and Andy Ferguson (currently CEO of Dollond & Aitchison) will be appointed as Managing Director.

The transaction, which is subject to the approval of the competition authorities, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2009. UniCredit Markets & Investment Banking acted as sole financial advisor to Alliance Boots.
Maurizio Dessolis, Vice Chairman, De Rigo, commented: "The proposed merger will bring together many complementary strengths. The new business will offer customers excellent
service and high-quality eyewear. We are confident that with this extraordinary opportunity for expansion it will thrive as a leading eyecare and eyewear provider."
Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman, Alliance Boots, commented: "The merger gives us an excellent opportunity to create a leading force in the UK optical market. Our plan is to grow and develop the new business, building on the strengths of the Boots brand."

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