These results are all the more impressive if we consider the unfavourable international economic context, and indeed consolidate the Group's major successes of the previous year.
The Wholesale Division registered a 2.9% increase in revenues, reaching EUR 237.8 million. Furthermore, the acquisition of REM Eyewear, one of the leading eyewear distribution companies on the American market, had a significant impact on the 2016 financial statements in the second half of the year. This strategic move strengthened De Rigo's distribution platform in the US. Further growth in the international business stemmed from the acquisition of the Group's Australian distributor and the consequent establishment of De Rigo Australia.
The positive sales results were also influenced by the new licensed brands Zadig&Voltaire, Trussardi and Nina Ricci, which made a significant contribution to the overall performance in 2016.
The year was further marked by the rationalization of other very important markets for the Group, and the opening of two new direct subsidiaries, both inaugurated in January 2016: the first (De Rigo Vision Middle East) in Dubai, and the second (De Rigo Vision DACH) in Frankfurt, to strengthen the Group's presence in the German market.
The Retail Division registered a 2.6% increase in revenues, reaching EUR 189.8 million, taking into account the increased sales in the Group's own chain, General Optica (Spain), and offsetting the contraction (-2.1 %) experienced by the Opmar Optik chain as a result of Turkey's local economic and political situation and the collapse of the Turkish lira.
The 2016 EBITDA settled at EUR 29.8 million as at 31 December 2016, while, at the same date, the De Rigo Group reported a positive net cash position of EUR 24.4 million, despite large investments in acquisitions, in the opening of 13 stores in Spain, and in the upgrading of the Group's information and logistics systems (totalling EUR 13 million).
Brexit affected the Group's accounts by bringing the cost of contributions to the UK pension fund to EUR 11.7 million, compared to EUR 8.2 million in 2015.
"This is a complex time for the eyewear industry, which is experiencing significant structural changes worldwide, but our Group is performing well, responding quickly to market changes and pursuing its targeted investment policy," said Ennio De Rigo, Chairman of the De Rigo Group. "This is largely made possible by our solid financial structure, which enables us to make strategic decisions on the international market, quickly and dynamically."
The year 2017 is also showing positive signs, with the advance renewal of two strategic licensing agreements, one with Chopard for the luxury sector, and the other with Escada for the fashion sector.