SEOUL, South Korea—Hankook Tire Co. Ltd.'s chief executive expects exports to account for more than three-fourths of his firm's 1998 sales—up from slightly more than half in recent years—reflecting a weak domestic market and currency-driven sales opportunities abroad. Exports to North America, for example, were up 31 percent in the January-June period, Hankook said, accounting for a large share of the firm's 63-percent jump in overall exports.
Exports should account for more than $650 million in 1998 sales for Hankook, factoring in a 30-percent devaluation of the Korean won against the U.S. dollar since 1997.
In addition to ``enhanced price competitiveness,'' Hankook cited increased advertising spending in foreign markets for an improved brand image internationally.
Hankook expects net profits to nearly double for fiscal 1998, to about $16 million.
Long term, Hankook continues to project itself as one of the world's five largest tire makers by 2005, with plans to nearly triple annual manufacturing from about 37 million tires now. The plans include establishing production in Europe and North America.