The Italian eyewear group gives the US retailer until July 20 to accept the offer Italian eyewear giant Luxottica has sweetened its offer for Cole National Corp, saying it will pay interest of 4 per cent a year on top of its previous bid of US$22.50 per share, or $401 million - provided Cole shareholders approve the proposal by July 20. The interest would accrue from the time Cole shareholders approve the merger until the deal is completed. New York-listed Cole, the second-largest eyewear retailer in the United States, has set a July 20 date for a shareholders meeting to consider the merger. Cole reserves the right to reject Luxottica's offer in favour of Hong Kong's Moulin International Holdings, which has offered US$25 per share but ran into trouble last month arranging financing for the deal. Moulin is the world's third-largest eyewear firm. Luxottica is the largest. Moulin declined to comment on the offer yesterday. Last month, Moulin chief executive Cary Ma Lit-kin said he believed the Cole acquisition to be a 'done deal' unless Luxottica raised its price. Assuming the merger would be completed within two years, Luxottica's offer would still be lower than Moulin's US$451 million bid. Cole shareholders are more likely to focus on Luxottica's superior financial footing, however. 'Luxottica's ability to pay for its acquisition is guaranteed, whereas that is not the case with Moulin,' said an analyst with DBS Vickers Securities. 'Luxottica is offering Cole shareholders a deal that can almost certainly materialise, even if its price is a bit lower.' Luxottica has secured a Euro1 billion (HK$9.52 billion) credit facility, which could enable it to offer up to US$30 per share, analysts say. Moulin, by contrast, has uncertain backing, and said last month that one of the parties financing its Cole bid had withdrawn. 'I'm not surprised the creditor pulled out,' the DBS Vickers analyst said. 'You're talking about a deal that is bigger than Moulin's market capitalisation.' Moulin's capitalisation was about HK$2.4 billion yesterday while Luxottica's was Euro6 billion. One potential obstacle to Luxottica buying Cole is US antitrust laws. The US Federal Trade Commission has questioned whether Cole's potential acquisition could stifle domestic competition.