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3i Group Agrees to Purchase Brazil Eyeglass Seller Oticas

3i Group Plc (III) and investors Neuberger Berman Group LLC and Siguler Guff & Co. agreed to buy Oticas Carol, the second-largest eyeglass retailer in Brazil, to profit from the nation’s growing middle class.

The three firms will invest a total of 108 million reais ($55 million) in Sao Paulo-based Oticas Carol, 3i said in an e- mailed statement yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Ronaldo Pereira will retain his position and is increasing his stake, according to the statement.

“We like the Brazilian middle-class consumer story a lot,” Marcelo Di Lorenzo, 3i’s managing director for Brazil, said in a telephone interview. “Carol is also a non-cyclical story, linked to health care and to the aging Brazilian population.”

Brazil added about 35 million people to its middle class in the past decade, according to Data Popular, a research firm that specializes in the low-income market. Average annual economic growth of 3.8 percent from 2002 to 2011 helped boost the middle class and reduce the jobless rate to a record low 4.6 percent in December.

Oticas Carol, founded by Marcos Amaro, has 490 stores in 19 Brazilian states, according to the statement. The company owns five and the rest are operated as franchises, said Lorenzo, who added that the total network will increase to about 600 stores by the end of this year.

Investors expect to complete the acquisition at the end of this month, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Francisco Marcelino in Sao Paulo at mdeoliveira@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net

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