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[Meet the CEO] Bausch & Lomb eyes circle lens market

The Korean unit of Bausch & Lomb said it is considering tapping the market for circle lenses that comprises 30 percent of the nation`s contact lens market.
Circle lenses are contact lenses that have a dark ring to make the iris appear larger than normal.
This is a major turnaround for the company, which had previously ruled out introducing circle lenses, citing potential health dangers.
Jean Moe, the managing director of Bausch & Lomb Korea, said the company is "considering entering the market for circle lenses if their safety were to be proven."
The nation`s contact lens market is growing more than 20 percent annually. This has been driven by a 30 percent increase in sales of disposable lenses.
"Korean women appear to be keen on the convenience and hygiene of contact lenses ... Korea has the world`s fifth-largest one-day lens market," she said.
"We plan to focus more on consumers in their early 20s, and to step up advertising and promotion to appeal to those customers," she said.
The company, which was once Korea`s No. 1 supplier of contact lenses, slipped to second in 2001, when Johnson & Johnson brought the disposable lens brand Acuvue to Korea, which became very popular.
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"We fell from a strong No. 1 to a weak No. 2," she said.
In 2006, the company was also hit by a massive recall of its contact lens solution, which was linked to a potentially blinding eye infection.
It was during that crisis when Moe was recruited to head Bausch & Lomb`s Korean operation. At the time, she was serving as a global marketing director at the U.S. headquarters of Merck and Co., a leading pharmaceutical firm. Before moving to Merck and Co., she was a marketer at P&G Korea and P&G Japan.
Since taking the helm of the troubled Bausch & Lomb Korea in April 2006, Moe has brought sweeping changes to the company, replacing managers and revamping the company`s product portfolio.
The company voluntarily pulled six of its 11 types of lenses from the shelves. That move has drastically reduced the product return rate and enhanced the business` predictability and transparency, Moe said.
Her efforts have paid off, with the company`s sales growing 20 to 30 percent annually since she took office.
"Our sales and P&L (profit and loss statement) were devastating. But now, we have one of the healthiest P&L (among global operations of Bausch & Lomb," she said.
Asked about what lens she is wearing, she said the "purevision," a lens that can be worn continuously for up to one month - even during sleep.
As to its surgical business, the company plans to expand further the cataract and refractive eye surgery markets.
This year, Bausch & Lomb agreed to form a joint venture with 20/10 Perfect Vision AG, the laser developer based in Germany. Early this year, Bausch & Lomb also acquired Eyeonics Inc., which makes an intraocular lens used in treating cataracts.

By Jin Hyun-joo

(hjjin@heraldcorp.com)

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