PARIS (May 28)—Babolat, a French tennis racket and string manufacturer, has expanded into the tennis shoe business with a little help from Bibendum. When privately held Babolat, credited with being one of the first companies globally to specialize in tennis racket strings, decided to broaden its product horizon, it turned to fellow French concern Groupe Michelin for help in developing a special sole for top performance. To create its new range of products, Babolat performed precise analyses of tennis players' movements and their needs on different types of playing surfaces. The new range of footwear will be available in July in specialty tennis stores in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria. An extended product range and distribution to the rest of Europe is scheduled for 2004. The company did not disclose whether it is making the footwear itself or having it made by a contract partner. In 2001, Babolat added tennis balls to its line of racket products.