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Published on September 3, 2007

Michelin has top future capital spending plans

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Date Published September 3, 2007
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Michelin proved its belief in the adage ``you have to spend money to make money'' during the past 12 months, announcing $1.8 billion in capital expenditures that gave it the top spot on the list of investments by tire companies.

The French tire maker's plans for a new plant in Mexico and expansions in the U.S. and Canada helped it outdistance No. 2 Goodyear, which committed $650 million to improvements.

Goodyear, however, has another several hundred million in expansion projects pending. The company also recently disclosed it will use a share of the $1.4 billion it netted in the sale of its Engineered Products business to build tire plants in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Bridgestone Corp., the top investor in the sector the past few years, disclosed $380 million in capital investment projects since August 2006. The company also spent $1.05 billion to buy retread industry supplier Bandag Inc.

Capital projects announced by the world's major tire makers totaled $3.3 billion in the past 12 months. That is about on par with the spending in the August 2005-August 2006 period and among the highest two or three 12-month periods tracked over the 21-year history of the Rubber & Plastics News' Global Tire Report.

India's JK Tyre & Industries Ltd. had the fourth-highest capital expenditure announcements of the period. The company budgeted $275 million for its Indian factories, including $30 million for the firm's OTR tire plant in Mysore.

Looking at the amount the tire makers actually spent in 2006, Bridgestone topped the list at $2.25 billion, including $1.98 billion in its tire division. Michelin and Continental A.G. followed at $1.77 billion and $1.01 billion, respectively.

As a percentage of sales, Nexen Tire Corp.'s 15.8 percent topped the list, followed by Nokian Tyres' 11.6 percent and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.'s tire division's 10.4 percent.

The average for the 16 top companies that provided capital spending information was 6.7 percent of sales.

Continental led in spending on research and development, but most of the $849.4 million in expenditures was for its automotive systems and non-tire business units.

Michelin was No. 1 in R&D investments in tires, spending $741.5 million last year, according to data from the companies. Bridgestone spent $613.9 million last year on tire-related R&D for No. 2, followed by Goodyear at $356 million.

Kumho's R&D budget of $78.2 million was 4.2 percent of sales versus Pirelli Tyre's 3.7 percent and Michelin's 3.6 percent. The average for the 16 companies for which data were available was 3 percent.

The capital spending disclosed over the past 12 months includes three new plants-Bridgestone's OTR tire facility in Shimonoseki, Japan; Michelin's car and light truck tire factory in Silao, Mexico; and Kumho Tire Co. Ltd.'s radial truck tire operation in Nanjing, China.

Nearly half the specific project spending disclosed since August 2006-$1.5 billion-will be allocated in North America, with $1 billion going to projects in Asia and about $975 million to Europe.

There are a dozen new tire plants that either have come on stream since August 2006 or are slated to begin production before year-end. These facilities represent about 40 million new units of annual passenger/light truck tire capacity and more than 3 million units of truck tire capacity.

Pirelli and Continental opened a joint venture steel cord plant in Romania late last year, and Bridgestone has one scheduled to open in China before year-end.

This is balanced by six plant closings that represented at full capacity about 30 million units of annual output, mostly all passenger/light truck tires.

The following is a summation of specific projects announced in the past year:

Bridgestone

* $35.5 million through 2008 to build a 133-acre test track and proving ground in Thailand close to its plant in Nongkhae.

* $240 million through 2010 to build a plant in Shimonoseki, Japan, for large OTR tires, with a daily capacity of 30 metric tons of compounded rubber. The site is scheduled to go on stream in the second half of 2009.

* $29.6 million to expand capacity for steel cord at its Saga, Japan, plant to support new OTR tire capacity.

* $33 million over four years for new production equipment and to retool existing equipment at the passenger and light truck tire facility in Aiken County, S.C.

* $42.3 million over four years to double radial aircraft tire capacity at the firm's Tokyo plant. Initial production is expected to start by the second half of 2008.

Cheng Shin/Maxxis

* $120 million through 2008 to upgrade and expand its Chinese factories.

Continental

* $148 million to $178 million through the end of 2008 to modernize and expand its Mount Vernon, Ill., car and light truck tire plant. The project includes a physical expansion of more than 150,000 square feet.

Cooper

* $76 million to rationalize distribution in North America and streamline manufacturing.

* An undisclosed sum to build a technical center at its plant in Melksham, England.

Goodyear

* An undisclosed sum to build plants in Eastern Europe and Asia and modernize/expand plants in Gadsden, Ala., and Fayetteville, N.C.

* $100 million over four years to expand production of high-value tires at its Debica, Poland, factory.

* $23.5 million to expand daily capacity 10 percent at its Pneumant car and light truck tire operation in Furstenwalde, Germany, to 11,000 units.

* $1.3 million to upgrade production of motorcycle racing tires at the Fort Dunlop plant in Birmingham, England.

JK Tyre & Industries

* $274.3 million over three years to expand and modernize its four tire plants in India, including $30 million for its OTR tire factory in Mysore. The project also includes doubling annual capacity for radial truck and bus tires to 800,000 units.

Kumho

* $90 million through 2008 for a radial truck and bus tire plant in Nanjing, China. The plant should come on stream before year-end 2008 with an annual capacity of 300,000 units.

Michelin

* $740 million during the next three to seven years for a passenger/light truck tire plant in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Employment ultimately should reach 1,300, but no capacity figures were released.

* $350 million over four years to improve and expand its factories in South Carolina. The project will add about 100 manufacturing jobs to the company's payroll of 7,850 in South Carolina. The firm didn't quantify the effect on capacity.

The project will increase production of semi-finished materials at Michelin's Sandy Springs and Starr, S.C., facilities to support tire manufacturing in North America; modernize passenger tire plants in Greenville, S.C.; boost earthmover tire capacity in Lexington, S.C.; and hike output of X One wide-base truck tires and military tires in Spartanburg County.

* $41.5 million over two years to increase capacity and enhance flexibility at its Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, car and light truck tire plant. The project will increase capacity by an undisclosed amount and create about 48 jobs. The province of Nova Scotia will contribute up to $5.6 million toward the expansion.

* $26 million through 2008 to expand capacity for steel cord by 11 percent at its Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, factory. Nova Scotia is contributing $4.8 million.

* $129 million to upgrade facilities at its Stomil Olsztyn passenger, truck and farm tire plant in Olsztyn, Poland. The operation also makes compounds, textile reinforcements and curing molds.

* In Brazil, $74 million to raise capacity for medium truck radials and retreads at the Rio de Janeiro plant and $64 million to raise annual capacity for passenger and SUV/light truck tires to 1.6 million units.

* In France, $50 million to revamp the Bourges and Cholet facilities, boosting light truck tire capacity at Cholet 60 percent to 4 million units per year and doubling radial aircraft tire capacity at Bourges. The project encompasses transferring light truck tire output to Cholet from Bourges and concentrating production at Bourges on radial aircraft tires.

*In Germany, nearly $340 million will be spent over five years to modernize and improve the company's five plants, which produce passenger and light truck tires in Bad Kreuznach and Hallstadt, truck tires in Homburg/Saar and Karlsruhe, and bead wire in Trier. The factories turn out 17 million units per year and employ 5,600.

Nokian

* $253 million in a four-year period to double the annual capacity of its 2-year-old tire factory in Vzevolozhsk, Russia, to 10 million units. The project will require an additional 350,000 square feet of space.

Pirelli

* An undisclosed amount to consolidate its separate passenger and truck tire plants in Turin, Italy, into one ``state-of-the-art technological and industrial center'' for such tires at the site of its truck tire factory in the city's Settimo district.

Sibur-Russian Tyres

* $200 million for a radial truck tire plant with annual capacity of up to 1 million units at a site to be named.

* $75 million over two years to set up a production line for polyester tire cord at its factory in Volzhsky, Russia, to support its own growth and supply other Russian tire operations.

Titan Tire

* $30 million to add capacity at its Bryan, Ohio, plant for up to 6,000 57- and 63-inch radial low-profile OTR mining tires using Titan's proprietary technology for 15-degree wheels.

Toyo

* $50 million through 2009 to boost annual capacity at its 3-year-old Bartow, Ga., car and light truck tire unit 65 percent to 3.3 million tires.

Triangle Group

* $14 million for 10 new tire building machines at its facility in Wehai, China.

Yokohama

* $25.4 million through 2008 to double capacity at its radial passenger tire factory in Hangzhou, China, to 2 million units.

* $83 million through 2009 to triple capacity for high performance tires at its plant in Shinshiro-Minami, Japan, to 3.1 million units.

* $58 million through 2009 to double annual capacity for passenger and light truck tires to 2.8 million units at its truck tire facility in Amata City, Thailand. Yokohama spent $109 million in 2005 to build passenger/light truck tire capacity adjacent to the truck tire plant it opened there that same year.