Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

At the launch of Vogue Eyewear. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Two of the world's leading eyeglass companies are about to merge, creating the closest thing to a monopoly the industry has ever seen, reports the Guardian.

Why it matters: "Around 1.4 billion of us rely on their products ... Last year, the two companies had a combined customer base that is somewhere between Apple’s and Facebook's," writes the Guardian's Sam Knight.

The merger...

  • Italy's Luxottica, the world's largest maker of spectacles, and France's Essilor, the biggest lens maker, are merging to form spectacles behemoth EssilorLuxottica.
  • EU and U.S. regulators approved the move on March 1.

By the numbers...

  • Their merger will form a $55 billion company, per Reuters, that employs more than 140,000 people and sells nearly a billion pairs of glasses and frames each year.
  • The scale of their businesses: Luxottica has 9,000 retail stories and makes glasses for Ray-Ban, Vogue, Prada, Oliver Peoples, Lenscrafter, Sunglass Hut, and it also runs John Lewis Opticians in the U.K.
  • Yes, but: "The new firm will not technically be a monopoly: Essilor currently has around 45% of the prescription lenses market, and Luxottica 25% of the frames."

The market...

  • About 70% of adults in developed countries use glasses to see better, and the market for glasses is $100 billion per year.
  • "In 2018, an estimated 2.5 billion people, mostly in India, Africa and China, are thought to need spectacles, but have no means to have their eyes tested or to buy them."
  • "The history of eyewear tells us that people do not, as a rule, start wearing glasses because they notice everything has gone a little out of focus. It is in order to take part in new forms of entertainment and labour."
  • "The mass market in spectacles did not emerge when they were invented, in 13th-century Italy, but 200 years later, alongside the printed word in Germany, because people wanted to read."

The backdrop...

  • "For a long time, scientists thought [myopia, or shortsightedness] was primarily determined by our genes.
  • "But about 10 years ago, it became clear that the way children were growing up was harming their eyesight, too."
  • "In the 1950s, between 10% and 20% of Chinese people were shortsighted. Now, among teenagers and young adults, the proportion is more like 90%. In Seoul, 95% of 19-year-old men are myopic, many of them severely, and at risk of blindness later in life."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.