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Closings, acquisitions reshape landscape

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Global tire capacity changed more through contraction and acquisition than expansion in the past year.

Since mid-2000, the world's major tire makers have closed six plants-including three in Mexico and one in the U.S.-and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s Decatur, Ill., facility is scheduled to shut down later this year. In addition, Bridgestone/Firestone has put workers at factories in Mexico and Argentina on notice their plants may be closed unless the company gets wage concessions.

On the other hand, only two factories of note have opened-Continental Tire North America Inc.'s satellite passenger tire facility in Timosoara, Romania, in late 2000, and Michelin North America Inc.'s farm tire plant in South Carolina in June 2001. Pirelli Tire North America's new operation in Rome, Ga., is expected to be on stream in mid-2002.

Otherwise, changes in capacity have been highlighted primarily by Group Michelin's expansion strategy-a joint venture in China with Shanghai Tyre & Rubber Co. Ltd. and acquisition of the Silvania and Victoria tire plants from Romania's Tofan Grup. These two deals will add more than 9 million units of annual production capacity and boost Michelin's annual sales by at least $100 million.

Of the world's dozen largest tire makers, five reduced capital spending last year. On average, the dozen major players invested 6.1 percent of sales in fiscal 2000 in capital improvements, ranging from 4.2 percent at four companies to 16.9 percent at Hankook.

Closings

Bridgestone/Firestone

* The firm issued a plant closure notice for its Decatur, Ill., site in late June 2001. Scheduled to shut down by the fourth quarter of 2001, the factory's 1,900 employees make 24,000 tires per day.

Pirelli

* In early 2001, the tire maker closed its Hanford, Calif., passenger tire plant, eliminating 490 jobs and losing capacity of 10,000 units daily.

Michelin

* The Queretaro and Tacuba, Mexico, facilities were shuttered in August 2000. Combined, the sites produced 9,200 tires per day and employed 800. But the Tacuba plant has since been leased to Compania Hulera Tornel S.A. de C.V.

* MSF Tire & Rubber Co., a subsidiary in which Michelin owned a minority stake, closed its Manila, Philippines, factory in early 2001. Its 800 employees produced 1 million units per year.

* In early 2001, the company shut down its Kuingaiv, Sweden, plant. Dedicated to winter tire production, the C3M-based site had 100 workers.

Goodyear

* The Tultilan, Mexico, plant, which employed 2,150 and made 20,000 tires daily, closed in April 2001.

* The company canceled plans in August 2001 to build a 1.2 million unit-per-year passenger tire plant in Glorhina, Brazil.

Titan International Inc.

* Its Natchez, Miss., factory was mothballed and staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew.

Expansions/new plants

Continental

* Conti opened a 22,000-unit-per-day passenger car tire plant in November 2000 in Timosoara, Romania. The project cost $60 million and an additional $35 million investment is projected through 2002.

Goodyear

* It invested $10 million and added 12,500 square feet to its Danville, Va., site, tripling production of radial aircraft tires.

* After an eight-year hiatus, the firm resumed production of aircraft tires at its Sao Paulo, Brazil, factory.

Michelin

* In June 2001, the company brought agricultural tire capacity online at its Lexington, S.C., manufacturing complex.

* It doubled capacity for passenger car and light truck tires at its Laem Chabang, Thailand, plant to 6 million units per year, much of which will be used to make 16-inch and larger tires for both Europe (performance tires) and North America (for sport-utility vehicles and light trucks).

Nizhnekamskshina

* The Russian firm is investing $60 million to add capacity for 2 million steel-belted radial car tires per year. The new capacity will be on stream in early 2002, and will bring car tire capacity at the plant in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, to 7 million units annually. In a second phase of the project, due on stream in 2003, the company expects to create new lines for steel radial truck tires in sizes 17.5-, 21.5- and 22.5-inch, mainly for the domestic market.

Pirelli

* A $141 million MIRS-oriented plant in Rome, Ga., is scheduled to be on stream in mid-2002.

P.T. Mega Safe Tyre Industry

* The company is expanding its radial tire factory in Salatiga, Indonesia, to 1.5 million units a year short term, and to as much as 4 million units a year by 2005.

Buyouts/joint ventures

Continental

* It has agreed to take majority control of Moscow Tire Plant. Conti will spend $43 million over three years to boost production of Taganka-brand tires to 5 million units annually from 2 million units, and eventually make Continental, Barum and Gislaved passenger and light truck tires.

Michelin

* The firm is taking over passenger tire operations at the Victoria S.A. plant in Floresti, Romania, the Silvania S.A. truck tire factory in Zalau, Romania, a Bandag Inc. retread facility in Bucharest and 20 warehouses from Tofan Grup.

* It created Shanghai Michelin Warrior Tire Co. Ltd., a 70/30 joint venture with Shanghai Tyre & Rubber Co. Ltd., incorporating capacity for 5 million tires and 5,000 metric tons of steel cord a year and 2,710 workers.

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