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KKR to buy online contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts

Sept 23 (Reuters) - KKR & Co Inc has agreed to acquire 1-800 Contacts from investment firm AEA Investors LP, the online contact lens retailer announced on Wednesday, in a deal that a source said was worth more than $3 billion.

Buyout firm KKR, which is looking to cash in on growing demand for digital sellers, earlier this year bought a majority stake in Coty Inc’s professional and retail hair unit and Dutch vacation parks firm Roompot.

Like many e-commerce companies, the Draper, Utah-based 1-800 Contacts has seen its customer base and sales surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, as customers turned to its online services due to virus-led closure of brick-and-mortar stores.

In contrast, revenue at eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica and U.S. optical store chain National Vision Holdings Inc nearly halved in the second quarter.

“KKR brings scale, unlike what we have had previously. At this stage of the growth of our business, it should be great to have access to their scale, resources and expertise,” 1800-Contacts Chief Executive Officer John Graham told Reuters.

1-800 Contacts was traded on Nasdaq for about a decade before being bought by private-equity firm Fenway Partners in 2007. (Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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