Just three months after Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings Ltd. bought 56 percent of the second-largest optical retail chain in the United States, eight bank creditors are calling in $42.3 million in loans they made to the Hong Kong company.
In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, Moulin, which completed the purchase of Eye Care Centers of America Inc. in early March, said a suspension of trading in its shares that it requested in April had breached terms of about $96 million in loans.
Moulin said it has hired an adviser, Anglo Chinese Corporate Finance Ltd., to help negotiate with the bankers as well as propose ways to raise capital "by way of a rights issue, other issue of securities, asset sales or the introduction of a strategic investor."
The Hong Kong-listed company said its "day-to-day operations have not been impacted by the status of its bank facilities." Moulin could not be reached to comment on its financial situation.
Shares of Moulin were suspended April 18. Ten days later, the company announced a second change of auditors, the cancellation of a convertible-bond sale and a delay in the release of its 2004 financial results until late May.
Moulin, Asia's biggest eyewear maker and the third-largest globally, said it would further delay releasing its results for 2004 until the end of June.
Founded in 1960, family-controlled Moulin has expanded aggressively for the past decade, from a manufacturer to a distribution and retailing company operating in more 70 countries and making more than 15 million frames a year for brands such as Sisley and Aigner. In March, it teamed up with Golden Gate Capital, a San Francisco private-equity firm, in the $450 million acquisition that gave it control of the second-largest eyeglasses shop in the United States by net revenue.
But Moulin's thirst for growth may have caught up with it, analysts say.
In August 2000, Moulin acquired Metzler, the second-largest optical company in Germany. Analysts say they think Metzler has been the source of disputes with the auditors over a possible write-down. In its latest statement, Moulin said it met in early May with the eight bank creditors that had sent default letters and "received informal indications of support from them," and the formal withdrawal of one of the demand letters followed.