QUINCY, Ill. (March 1, 2004) — Tire and wheel maker Titan International Inc. is writing off its closed Natchez, Miss., tire plant, but at the same time considering putting its mothballed Brownsville, Texas, plant into a joint venture with an as-yet unidentified Asian company.
To generate cash to help pay down debt, Titan is looking to sell tire-building equipment at its Natchez facility — mothballed since May 2001 — possibly to firms in China or India and permanently close the plant, according to President and CEO Maurice Taylor Jr.
Titan idled and never reopened Natchez, which produced farm and construction tires, because of reduced demand caused by the economic recession. The company acquired the former Fidelity Tire Manufacturing Co. plant in 1998.
Regarding a joint venture, it could take at least three months to finalize a deal, Mr. Taylor said, which would include at least a partial sale of Titan's equipment in Brownsville. The venture would make all-terrain vehicle, lawn and garden and other specialty tires as it did before the shutdown, generating perhaps as much as $100 million in sales, he said in a conference call with analysts.
Titan valued the equipment at Natchez and Brownsville at $32.9 million.
At the same time, Titan is making undisclosed moves at its sole remaining tire plant, in Des Moines, Iowa, to increase capacity to a level that would support about $200 million in annual sales.
Titan also has put up for sale idled wheel-making plants in Greenwood, S.C., and Walcott, Iowa. Titan's long-term debt stood at $248.4 million at year-end.