FRANKFURT, Germany-Changes in international currency exchange rates have moved Groupe Michelin and Bridgestone Corp. into a virtual tie for bragging rights as the world's largest tire maker, based on sales. Michelin, however, retained the No. 1 position by virtue of less substantial declines in total corporate tire sales and in the value of the French franc vs. the U.S. dollar. (The rankings are based on the dollar value of the companies' tire sales.)
Both companies suffered sales declines in 1993, as reported in their own currencies. But the franc devalued against the dollar, while Japanese yen appreciated, so converting the two manufacturers' sales revenue from tires into dollars put Michelin at $9.5 billion vs. $9.47 billion for Bridgestone, a difference of less than 0.3 percent.
Expressed in francs, Michelin's sales slipped 3.1 percent in 1993, compared with 1992, but a 7-percent decline in the franc's value against the dollar meant the French company's sales, expressed in dollars, fell 9.5 percent.
Conversely, Bridgestone's 1993 sales in yen were off 10 percent in 1993, but the Japanese currency gained in strength by nearly 12 percent against the dollar. As a result, Bridgestone's 1993 sales expressed in dollars actually rose slightly from 1992 levels.
Goodyear's 8.3-percent sales growth in 1993 positioned the company again as a challenger for the top spot. Goodyear's growth also increased the gap between it and No. 4 Continental A.G., which suffered a slight sales decline last year.
The remainder of the Top 10 showed no change in positioning from 1992 or 1991, when Sumitomo Rubber Industries Co. Ltd. first passed Pirelli Tyre Holding N.V. for No. 5. If Ohtsu Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.'s results were added to Sumitomo's, then Sumitomo (which owns 46.8 percent of Ohtsu) would be solidly in fourth, ahead of Continental.
Sumitomo and Ohtsu, however, suffered the biggest sales drops of the major makers, 15.5 and 11.7 percent, respectively, when figured in yen.
The economic doldrums in Europe last year led to sales declines by Michelin, Continental, Pirelli and others operating there, leading indirectly to a slight shift in market share distribution within the Top 50.
The top 10 companies combined represented about 82 percent of the global tire market of $52.7 billion-about the same share as in 1992.
The shift occurred at the bottom of the list, where a bevy of relatively small Asian manufacturers is growing into Top 50 candidate material.
China's Shanghai Tyre & Rubber Co. and Thailand's Siam Tyre were the big movers last year, with Shanghai jumping to 15th from 29th on the strength of 63-percent growth from 1992, and Siam leaping 15 places to 29th. Shanghai is one of three Chinese companies in the ranking this year.
Also advancing was P.T. Gadjah Tuggal of Indonesia, now ranked 26th after 33-percent growth last year.
Dropping out of the Top 50 list this year because of significant sales declines were Hungary's Taurus Rubber Co. Ltd., India's Bombay Tyres International Ltd. and Germany's Pneumant Reifenwerke GmbH.
Okamoto Industries, now considered part of Michelin's sales, and Barum Holding, the majority of which is now part of Continental, also left the list.
New to the rankings are: China Tire Holdings Ltd.; Taiwan's Hwa Fong Rubber Industry Co. Ltd.; and China's Anhui Tyre. Returning to the list after a year's absence are Fidelity Tire Manufacturing Co. and Carlisle Tire & Rubber Co.
In all, there are 23 countries represented in the ranking. India is home to the most Top 50 manufacturers, seven, followed by Japan with six, Taiwan with five, the U.S. with four, and South Korea, South Africa and China with three each.
As a whole, the top dozen tire makers fell into the red last year on a net basis, dragged down primarily by Michelin and Pirelli, which reported restructuring-affected losses. Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd., Toyo Tyre & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Ohtsu Tire & Rubber also ended the year in the red.
On a net basis, Cooper easily was the leading performer, recording an earnings/sales ratio of 8.5 percent. Goodyear and Bridgestone followed at 3.3 and 1.8 percent, respectively.