Dual application for Exemptive Relief Applications -- Application for relief from the prospectus and registration requirements for certain trades made in connection with an employee share offering by a French issuer -- The issuer cannot rely on the employee exemption in section 2.24 of Regulation 45-106 respecting Prospectus Exemptions as the securities are not being offered to Canadian employees directly but rather through special purpose entities -- Canadian participants will receive disclosure documents -- The special purpose entities or FCPEs are subject to the supervision of the local securities regulator -- Canadian employees will not be induced to participate in the offering by expectation of employment or continued employment -- There is no market for the securities of the issuer in Canada -- Relief granted, subject to conditions -- 5 years sunset clause.
Applicable Legislative Provisions
Securities Act (Québec), ss. 11, 148 and 263.
Regulation 45-106 respecting Prospectus Exemptions, s. 2.24.
Regulation 31-103 respecting Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations, s. 8.16.
[Original text in French]
SEDAR+ filing No.: 06024742
October 13, 2023
IN THE MATTER OF THE SECURITIES LEGISLATION OF QUEBEC AND ONTARIO (the "Jurisdictions")
IN THE MATTER OF THE PROCESS FOR EXEMPTIVE RELIEF APPLICATIONS IN MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS
IN THE MATTER OF ESSILORLUXOTTICA SA (the "Filer")
The securities regulatory authority or regulator of each of the Jurisdictions (Decision Maker) has received an application from the Filer for a decision under the securities legislation of the Jurisdictions (the Legislation) for:
1. an exemption from the prospectus requirement (the Prospectus Relief) so that such requirement does not apply to:
a) trades of:
i) units (the Principal Classic Units) of a $i:fonds commun de placement d'entreprise$ei: or "FCPE", a form of collective shareholding vehicle commonly used in France for the custody of shares held by employee-investors, named "EssilorLuxottica" (the Principal Classic Fund); and
ii) units (the Temporary Classic Units, and together with the Principal Classic Units, the Units) of future temporary FCPEs that may be established for Subsequent Employee Offerings (as defined below) (each, a Temporary Classic Fund, and together with the Principal Classic Fund, the Funds), made pursuant to an Employee Offering (as defined below) to or with Qualifying Employees (as defined below) resident in the Jurisdictions, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador (collectively, the Canadian Employees, and Canadian Employees who subscribe for Units, the Canadian Participants);
b) trades of ordinary shares of the Filer (the Shares) by the Classic Fund to or with Canadian Participants upon the redemption of Units as requested by Canadian Participants (the term "Classic Fund" used herein means, for the 2023 Employee Offering (as defined below), the Principal Classic Fund, and, for Subsequent Employee Offerings, either the Principal Classic Fund, or, if applicable, the relevant Temporary Classic Fund prior to the Merger (as defined below), and following the Merger, the Principal Classic Fund); and
2. an exemption from the dealer registration requirement (together with the Prospectus Relief, the Exemption Sought) so that such requirement does not apply to the Filer and its Local Related Entities (as defined below), the Classic Fund and Societe Generale Gestion (the Management Company) in respect of:
a) trades in Units made pursuant to an Employee Offering to or with Canadian Employees; and
b) trades in Shares by the Classic Fund to or with Canadian Participants upon the redemption of Units as requested by Canadian Participants.
Under the Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions (for a dual application):
a) the Autorite des marches financiers is the principal regulator for this application;
b) the Filer has provided notice that section 4.7(1) of $i:Regulation 11-102 respecting Passport System,$ei: CQLR, c. V-1.1, r. 1 (Regulation 11-102) is intended to be relied upon in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador; and
c) the decision is the decision of the principal regulator and evidences the decision of the securities regulatory authority or regulator in Ontario.
Terms defined in $i:Regulation 14-101 respecting Definitions,$ei: CQLR, c. V-1.1, r. 3, Regulation 11-102 and $i:Regulation 45-106 respecting Prospectus Exemptions,$ei: CQLR, c. V-1.1, r. 21 (Regulation 45-106) have the same meaning if used in this decision, unless otherwise defined.
This decision is based on the following facts represented by the Filer:
1. The Filer is a corporation formed under the laws of France. It is not and has no current intention of becoming a reporting issuer under the securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada. The head office of the Filer is located in France and the Shares are listed on Euronext Paris.
2. The Filer has established a global employee share offering (the 2023 Employee Offering) and expects to establish subsequent global employee share offerings following 2023 for the next four years that are substantially similar (Subsequent Employee Offerings, and together with the 2023 Employee Offering, the Employee Offerings) for Qualifying Employees of the Filer and its participating related entities, including related entities that employ Canadian Employees (Local Related Entities, and together with the Filer and other related entities of the Filer, the EssilorLuxottica Group). Each Local Related Entity is a direct or indirect controlled subsidiary of the Filer and no Local Related Entity is a reporting issuer nor has any intention of becoming a reporting issuer under the securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada. The head office of the EssilorLuxottica Group in Canada is located in Quebec.
3. As of the date hereof, "Local Related Entities" include EssilorLuxottica Canada Inc., DAC Vision Inc., Satisloh North America Inc., Walman Optical Canada Ltd., Optique Cristal (1988) Inc., Riverside Opticalab Ltd., Omics Software Inc., Technologies Humanware Inc., Shamir Canada Optical Inc., FGx Canada Corporation, Axis Medical Canada Inc., Vision Rx Lab Canada Inc., Bugaboos Eyewear Corporation, 8336083 Canada Inc. For any Subsequent Employee Offering, the list of "Local Related Entities" may change.
4. As of the date hereof and after giving effect to any Employee Offering, the Filer is and will be a "foreign issuer" as such term is defined in section 2.15(1) of $i:Regulation 45-102 respecting Resale of Securities$ei:, CQLR, c. V-1.1, r. 20 (Regulation 45-102), section 2.8(1) of Ontario Securities Commission Rule 72-503 -- $i:Distributions Outside Canada$ei: (OSC Rule 72-503) and section 11(1) of Alberta Securities Commission Rule 72-501 -- $i:Distributions to Purchasers Outside Alberta$ei: (ASC Rule 72-501).
5. The 2023 Employee Offering involves an offering of Shares to be acquired through the Principal Classic Fund. Each Subsequent Employee Offering will involve an offering of Shares to be subscribed through either the Principal Classic Fund, or a Temporary Classic Fund, which will be merged with the Principal Classic Fund after completion of the Subsequent Employee Offering (the Classic Plan, which for greater certainty, includes the 2023 Employee Offering), subject to the decision of the supervisory boards of the Funds and the approval of the Autorite des marches financiers in France (the French AMF).
6. Only persons who are employees of an entity forming part of the EssilorLuxottica Group during the subscription period for an Employee Offering and who meet other employment criteria (the Qualifying Employees) will be allowed to participate in the relevant Employee Offering.
7. The Principal Classic Fund was established for the purpose of implementing the employee offerings generally. There is no intention for the Principal Classic Fund to become a reporting issuer under the securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada. There is no intention for any Temporary Classic Fund that may be established for the purpose of implementing Subsequent Employee Offerings to become a reporting issuer under the securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada.
8. The Principal Classic Fund was registered with, and has been approved by, the French AMF, as of July 26, 2006. It is expected that each Temporary Classic Fund established for Subsequent Employee Offerings will be an FCPE and will be registered with, and approved by, the French AMF.
9. The total amount invested by a Canadian Employee pursuant to an Employee Offering cannot exceed the lesser of (i) four Units, and (ii) 25% of his or her estimated gross annual compensation. The value of the Bonus Shares (as defined below) is not included in this calculation.
10. The maximum number of Shares that may be subscribed for by the Qualifying Employees under the 2023 Employee Offering is 600,000 Shares. A different maximum offering size may apply to Subsequent Employee Offerings. If subscriptions received from Qualifying Employees under an Employee Offering would result in an acquisition of value of Shares by the Fund in excess of the maximum offering size, the largest individual subscription or subscriptions will be reduced until the aggregate number of Shares subscribed for under the Employee Offering is below the maximum offering size.
11. Under the Classic Plan, each Employee Offering will be made as follows:
a) Canadian Participants will subscribe for the relevant Units, and the Principal Classic Fund under the 2023 Employee Offering, or the Principal Classic Fund or relevant Temporary Classic Fund under Subsequent Employee Offerings, will then subscribe for Shares on behalf of Canadian Participants.
b) For the 2023 Employee Offering, the Shares will be subscribed for at a subscription price that is the Canadian dollar equivalent of the average opening price of Shares (expressed in Euros) on Euronext Paris for the 20 trading days preceding the date of the fixing of the subscription price by the chief executive officer of the Filer (the Subscription Price). For Subsequent Employee Offerings, the Subscription Price will be determined in the same manner, except that the Filer may offer Shares at a specified discount to the Subscription Price (a Discounted Subscription Price). For a Subsequent Employee Offering where a Discounted Subscription Price is offered, Canadian Participants will subscribe for Units in a Temporary Classic Fund, which will subscribe for Shares on behalf of Canadian Participants.
c) For the 2023 Employee Offering, the Principal Classic Fund, and for Subsequent Employee Offerings, the Principal Classic Fund or relevant Temporary Classic Fund, as the case may be, respectively, will apply the cash received from the Canadian Participants to subscribe for Shares.
d) For Subsequent Employee Offerings, the Shares subscribed for will be held in either: (i) the Principal Classic Fund; or (ii) if a Temporary Classic Fund is utilized, in the relevant Temporary Classic Fund, initially, and the Canadian Participants will receive Units of the relevant Temporary Classic Fund.
e) Following the completion of a Subsequent Employee Offering where a Temporary Classic Fund is utilized, the relevant Temporary Classic Fund will be merged with the Principal Classic Fund (subject to the approval of the supervisory board of the FCPE and the French AMF). The Temporary Classic Units held by Canadian Participants will be replaced with the Principal Classic Units on a $i:pro rata$ei: basis and the Shares subscribed for will be held in the Principal Classic Fund (such transaction being referred to as the Merger). The Merger is made by the transfer of all assets held in the Temporary Classic Fund into the Principal Classic Fund and the liquidation of the Temporary Classic Funds after such transfer.
f) All Units acquired by Canadian Participants will be subject to a hold period of approximately three years (the Lock-Up Period), subject to certain exceptions prescribed by French law and adopted for an Employee Offering (such as release on death, disability, or termination of employment).
g) Any dividends paid on the Shares held in the Classic Fund will be contributed to the Classic Fund and used to purchase additional Shares, and additional Units (or fractions thereof) will be issued to the Canadian Participants to reflect this reinvestment.
h) At the end of the relevant Lock-Up Period, a Canadian Participant may (i) request the redemption of Units in the Classic Fund in consideration for the underlying Shares or a cash payment equal to the then market value of the Shares, or (ii) continue to hold Units in the Classic Fund and request the redemption of those Units at a later date in consideration for the underlying Shares or a cash payment equal to the then market value of the Shares.
i) In the event of an early exit resulting from a Canadian Participant exercising one of the exceptions to the Lock-Up Period and meeting the applicable criteria, the Canadian Participant may request the redemption of Units in the Classic Fund in consideration for a cash payment equal to the then fair market value of the underlying Shares.
ii) In addition, each Employee Offering provides that the Filer will also contribute additional Shares (Bonus Shares) into the Classic Plan based on predetermined matching contribution rules, for the benefit of, and at no cost to, eligible Canadian Participants. Canadian Participants will receive Units representing their interest in the Bonus Shares.
12. For the 2023 Employee Offering, the number of Bonus Shares which a Canadian Participant is eligible to receive will be determined according to the following matching schedule:
Canadian Participant's Subscription Matching Ratio 1/2 Share 1/2 Bonus Share 1 Share 1 Bonus Share 2 Shares 2 Bonus Shares 3 Shares 3 Bonus Shares 4 Shares 4 Bonus Shares
For each Subsequent Employee Offering, the matching contribution rules may change.
13. Under French law, an FCPE is a limited liability entity. The portfolio of the Funds will consist almost entirely of Shares, but may, from time to time, also include cash in respect of dividends paid on the Shares which will be reinvested in Shares and cash or cash equivalents pending investments in Shares and for the purposes of Unit redemptions.
14. The Funds are managed by the Management Company, which is a portfolio management company governed by the laws of France. The Management Company is registered with the French AMF as an investment manager and complies with the rules of the French AMF. The Management Company is not, and has no current intention of becoming, a reporting issuer under the securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada. For any Subsequent Employee Offering, the "Management Company' may change. In the event of such a change, the successor to the Management Company will comply with the terms and conditions described in this paragraph.
15. The Management Company's portfolio management activities in connection with an Employee Offering and the Funds are limited to subscribing for Shares, selling such Shares as necessary in order to fund redemption requests and investing available cash in cash equivalents.
16. The Management Company is also responsible for preparing accounting documents and publishing periodic informational documents of the Funds. The Management Company's activities will not affect the underlying value of the Shares.
17. None of the entities forming part of the EssilorLuxottica Group, the Classic Fund or the Management Company, or any of their directors, officers, employees, agents or representatives will provide investment advice to Canadian Employees with respect to an investment in Shares or Units.
18. None of the entities forming part of the EssilorLuxottica Group, the Funds or the Management Company is currently in default of securities legislation of any jurisdiction of Canada.
19. Shares issued pursuant to an Employee Offering will be deposited in the Classic Fund through Societe Generale (the Depositary), a large French commercial bank subject to French banking legislation. For any Subsequent Employee Offering, the "Depositary" may change. In the event of such a change, the successor to the Depositary will remain a large French commercial bank subject to French banking legislation. The Depositary carries out orders to purchase, trade and sell securities in the portfolio and takes all necessary action to allow the Classic Fund to exercise the rights relating to the securities held in their portfolio.
20. The Management Company and the Depositary are obliged to act exclusively in the best interests of the holders of the Units (including Canadian Participants) and are jointly and severally liable to them under French legislation for any violation of the rules and regulations governing FCPEs, any violation of the rules of the Funds, or for any self-dealing or negligence.
21. Participation in an Employee Offering is voluntary, and the Canadian Employees will not be induced to participate in an Employee Offering by expectation of employment or continued employment.
22. The Unit value of the Classic Fund will be calculated and reported to the French AMF on a regular basis, based on the net assets of the Classic Fund divided by the number of Units outstanding. The value of the Units will be correlated with the value of the underlying Shares.
23. The Shares and Units are not currently listed for trading on any stock exchange in Canada and there is no intention to have the Shares or the Units so listed.
24. All management charges relating to the Classic Fund will be paid from the assets of the Classic Fund or by the Filer, as provided in the rules of the Classic Fund.
25. Canadian Employees will receive an information package in the French or English language, according to their preference, which will include a summary of the terms of the relevant Employee Offering and a description of the relevant Canadian income tax consequences of subscribing for and holding Units of the Classic Fund and requesting the redemption of such Units at the end of the applicable Lock-Up Period. The information package will be made available through a link that will be emailed to each Canadian Employee. Canadian Employees will also have access to the Filer's French Document d'Enregistrement Universel filed with the French AMF in respect of the Shares and a copy of the rules of the Principal Classic Fund and relevant Temporary Classic Fund, if applicable. Canadian Employees will also have access to copies of the continuous disclosure materials relating to the Filer that are furnished to holders of Shares generally and that are available on the Filer's website. Canadian Participants will receive an initial statement of their holdings under the Classic Plan, together with an updated statement, at least once per year.
26. As at August 11, 2023, for the 2023 Employee Offering, there are approximately 1,239 Qualifying Employees resident in Canada, with the greatest number resident in Ontario (508), and the remainder in Quebec (468), British Columbia (165), Alberta (37), New Brunswick (33), Nova Scotia (16), Manitoba (10), and Newfoundland and Labrador (2), who represent, in the aggregate, less than 1% of the number of employees in the EssilorLuxottica Group worldwide.
27. Units are not transferable by holders of such Units except upon redemption and other than as reflected in the decision document.
Each of the Decision Makers is satisfied that the decision meets the test set out in the Legislation for the Decision Maker to make the decision.
The decision of the Decision Makers under the Legislation is that the Exemption Sought is granted provided that:
1. with respect to the 2023 Employee Offering, the prospectus requirement will apply to the first trade in any Units or Shares acquired by Canadian Participants pursuant to this decision unless the following conditions are met:
a) the issuer of the security:
i) was not a reporting issuer in any jurisdiction of Canada at the distribution date, or
ii) is not a reporting issuer in any jurisdiction of Canada at the date of the trade;
b) the issuer of the security was a foreign issuer on the distribution date, as such term is defined in section 2.15(1) of Regulation 45-102, section 2.8(1) of OSC Rule 72-503 and section 11(1) of ASC Rule 72-501; and
c) the first trade is made:
i) through an exchange, or a market, outside of Canada, or
ii) to a person outside of Canada; and
2. for any Subsequent Employee Offering completed within five years from the date of this decision:
a) the representations other than those in paragraphs 3 and 26 remain true and correct in respect of that Subsequent Employee Offering, and
b) the conditions set out in paragraph 1 apply to any such Subsequent Employee Offering (varied such that any references therein to the 2023 Employee Offering are read as references to the relevant Subsequent Employee Offering); and
3. in the Provinces of Ontario and Alberta, the prospectus exemption above, for the first trade in any Units or Shares acquired by Canadian Participants pursuant to this decision, is not available with respect to any transaction or series of transactions that is part of a plan or scheme to avoid the prospectus requirements in connection with a trade to a person or company in Canada.