HAL Holding initiates arbitration proceedings against EssilorLuxottica

The two companies are engaged in legal proceedings over information pertaining to how GrandVision has handled the COVID-19 crisis

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HAL Holding has initiated arbitration proceedings against EssilorLuxottica as a legal dispute continues in connection to the planned sale of GrandVision, parent company of Vision Express.

The move follows an announcement from EssilorLuxottica last month that it would launch legal proceedings to obtain information from GrandVision on how it had managed business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Announcing the launch of the arbitration proceedings, HAL Holding said that the move would ensure EssilorLuxottica “complies with its obligations in respect of the transaction.”

Acknowledging the proceedings in a separate statement, EssilorLuxottica called it a “surprising and obvious attempt by HAL and GrandVision to detract from GrandVision’s breaches under the support agreement and its failure to provide EssilorLuxottica with required information.”

The company stated it is “acting in full compliance” with the block trade, and support agreements, adding that any suggestion otherwise is “baseless.”

EssilorLuxottica also confirmed it will continue legal proceedings.

The takeover bid was confirmed in August last year, with EssilorLuxottica seeking to acquire HAL Holding NV’s 76.72% stake in GrandVision.

EssilorLuxottica announced in July this year that it would launch legal proceedings in the Netherlands in order to obtain information from GrandVision which had not been provided “despite repeated requests.”

The information would be used to assess the way in which GrandVision had managed business during the COVID-19 crisis, EssilorLuxottica explained, as well as the “extent to which GrandVision has breached its obligations under the support agreement.”

GrandVision had stated in response that it “strongly” disagreed with the requests for additional information relating to its actions through the pandemic, while HAL Holding said it believed the claims to be “without merit.”

While recognising the arbitration announcement, EssilorLuxottica confirmed it would continue with the legal proceedings. A court hearing has been scheduled for 10 August 2020.

On 6 August, HAL Holding confirmed that EssilorLuxottica had taken measures to secure information stored on HAL servers in connection with the summary proceedings. A back-up of the information will be held by an independent third party until there is a ruling on whether EssilorLuxottica should be granted access.

Recently, an investigation by the European Commission into EssilorLuxottica’s acquisition of GrandVision has been paused, according to the merger case listing.

The investigation was launched in February 2020 under the EU Merger Regulation, with the Commission concerned that the transaction could lead to a reduction of competition in the retail market for optical products.

The deadline for the competition investigation into the takeover bid has been suspended, with case records suggesting this would be the third time the deadline has been paused. However, reports suggest that several cases have seen pauses during the COVID-19 pandemic.