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Reflecting the shifting currency values and various growth strategies globally, the Tire Business global top 75 tire makers saw a number of changes this year, including Bridgestone Corp. jumping to the No. 1 spot to replace Group Michelin, which had held that rank for four straight years. (See charts on pages 11 and 12.)

Meanwhile, Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. surged ahead of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Kumho Tire Co. Inc. moved ahead of Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. into the Nos. 8 and 10 spots.

The rankings, based on fiscal 2005 sales, also saw Taiwan's Cheng Shin Rubber/Maxxis International eclipse the billion-dollar sales mark, and next year there could be two more-China's Triangle Group Co. Ltd. and India's Apollo Tyres Ltd. (based on its acquisition of South Africa's Dunlop Tyres International).

Overall, the global market grew 9 percent last year to an estimated $101 billion. Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear account for 53 percent of the world market, and the 10 largest makers represent nearly 77 percent.

Bridgestone's move to No. 1 was aided by an 11.6-percent gain in tire division sales over 2005 vs. Michelin's 3.6-percent improvement. Bridgestone also benefited slightly from a change in the yen/dollar exchange rate; the euro/dollar rate was unchanged from 2004 to 2005. The company's position is further solidified by its ownership stake in BRISA/Bridgestone-Sabanci Tire Mfg. in Turkey, which posted sales of $432.2 million.

Goodyear reported 6-percent growth in its tire business and is ranked a close third at $17.5 billion, just a tick behind Michelin's $17.8 billion and Bridgestone's $18.3 billion.

Cooper Tire more than likely will regain the No. 8 ranking this year, as sales should increase by about $500 million based on the integration of the Chengshan Shandong activities in China.

Other companies making noticeable sales jumps in 2005 vs. '04 were GPX International Tire-the new company that resulted from the merger of Galaxy Tire Co. and Dynamic Tire Corp.-and Sibur-Russkie Shiny and Nexen Tire Corp., which reported 48.5- and 55.3-percent sales growth, respectively. Separately, Nexen announced plans for a plant in China.

Looking ahead, acquisitions made in recent months will scramble the rankings next year. Besides Cooper's purchase of majority control of Chengshan Shandong, two other firms made moves in the past year:

* Apollo Tyres' $62 million acquisition of Dunlop Tyres International will boost Apollo's annual sales by more than $200 million, pushing Apollo north of $900 million in sales overall.

* Titan International Inc.'s separate purchases of Goodyear's North American farm tire business and Continental Tire North America Inc.'s off-the-road tire business will add $300 million or more to Titan's ledger, boosting its tire business to about $500 million in annual sales. That would position Titan among the top 25 tire makers worldwide.

Average sales per employee of the major tire makers slipped 1.7 percent to $194,917, with a high of $452,222 for Hankook and a low of $40,514 for Amtel-Vredestein N.V.

Finland's Nokian Tyres P.L.C. topped the earnings list this past year, posting an operating profit/sales ratio of 16.9 percent and a net profit/sales ratio of 11.9 percent.

Continental A.G. and Hankook followed on the pre-tax side at 10.9 and 9.9 percent, respectively, while Pirelli & C. S.p.A. and Hankook posted net earnings ratios of 8.8 and 7.3 percent, respectively.

The average operating profit ratio for the 17 major tire companies for which data were available was 7.6 percent; the net ratio was 5.1 percent.

Only Cooper Tire and Amtel-Vredestein N.V. were in the red in 2005.

Of the 75 companies listed this year, 17 are from China; nine from India; eight from the U.S.; five each from Taiwan and Japan; four from Russia; three from South Korea; two each from Italy and Iran; and one each from Argentina, Belarus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam.

New to the rankings this year are: Dena Tire & Rubber Mfg. Co. Ltd. of Tehran, Iran, at No. 60; J.V. Matador-Omskshina of Omsk, Russia, at No. 73; and Falcon Tyres Ltd. of Mysore, India, at No. 75.

* * *

Corporate sales per employee

CompanySales/employee

Hankook: $452,222

Toyo Tire: $400,786

Nokian Tyre: $280,434

Yokohama: $273,113

Sumitomo: $267,189

Nexen: $261,285

Cooper Tire: $245,971

Kumho: $242,462

Goodyear: $240,524

Continental: $215,270

Pirelli: $210,504

Bridgestone: $197,567

Shandong Linglong: $177,456

Michelin: $152,109

MRF: $84,426

Apollo Tyres: $78,426

Cheng Shin/Maxxis: $77,273

Amtel-Vredestein: $40,514

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