The Italian sunglass powerhouse Luxottica, maker of the Ray-Ban and Persol, and French ophthalmic lenses producer Essilor have agreed to merge. This is one of Europe's largest cross-border partnerships, and has the possibility to reshape the eyewear industry.

Luxottica and Essilor said Monday they had agreed to a 46-billion-euro ($49-billion) merger in efforts to create the largest conglomerate in the eyewear industry. The deal brings together the world's top spectacles maker with brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley, and the world's leading manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses.

Luxottica and Essilor, which have a market value of around 24 billion euros and 22 billion euros respectively, had been exploring a tie-up for years. The merged entity plans to see annual revenues of 15 billion euros and a combined workforce of 140,000 employees in 150 countries.

The fast-growing eyewear market is expected to keep expanding at a strong pace in the years ahead because of an aging population and increasing awareness of eye care and vision problems, with Latin America and Asia seen by analysts as key markets for growth.

To learn more, read the New York Times article about the merger