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Published on September 3, 2007

Bridgestone holds tight to top spot for 2006

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Date Published September 3, 2007

Bridgestone Corp. retained its spot as the world's largest tire maker in 2006, although just barely ahead of Michelin, behind an 11-percent spurt in sales.

A big shift in the value of the yen versus the dollar during the year-5.6 percent-nearly halved Bridgestone's growth. The two competitors ended the year in a virtual tie, based on tire-related sales, with Bridgestone at $19.4 billion and Michelin at $19.3 billion.

Michelin posted a sales gain of 5.1 percent, and the euro-dollar exchange rate shifted only 1 percent.

Bridgestone's claim to the top spot is bolstered by its 44-percent holding in Turkey's Brisa Bridgestone Sabanci Tire Mfg. Co. Ltd. Bridgestone and Turkey's Sabanci Holdings hold equal shares in the company, which ranks 29th this year with sales of $483.7 million.

No. 3 Goodyear's 3.6-percent growth lagged behind both its major competitors' performances. Its tire sales came in at $18 billion for 2006.

The top 13 spots are unchanged from a year ago, when the rankings saw three big changes at the top.

The first change is at No. 14 where China's Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. landed after its sales grew nearly 50 percent to $1.08 billion. It came in at No. 23 for 2005.

By virtue of its acquisition of South Africa's Dunlop Tyres International Ltd. during 2006, India's Apollo Tyres Ltd. moved up two spots on the ranking to 16th at $949.1 million.

The size of the global marketplace grew 9.4 percent to $112 billion, according to estimates based on Rubber & Plastics News' annual survey of more than 250 tire companies worldwide.

Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear account for slightly more than half of the world's sales, and the top 10 represent 74.5 percent.

Titan International Inc. moved up 12 spots to 34th after acquiring Goodyear's North American farm tire and Continental Tire North America Inc.'s off-the-road tire businesses, which doubled Titan's sales to $400 million.

New to the rankings

Debuting in the Top 75 this year are:

* Petlas Tyre Industry & Trade Co. of Turkey at No. 51 with sales of $132 million;

* Vee Rubber of Thailand at No. 63 with estimated sales of $75 million;

* Artawheel Tyre Co. of Iran at No. 71 with sales of $63 million;

* P.T. Multistrada Arah Sarana Tbk. of Indonesia (formerly P.T. Oroban Perakasa, now under new ownership) at No. 72 with sales of $61.9 million;

* Ralson (India) Ltd. of India at No. 74 with sales of $49.8 million; and

* Sameer Africa Ltd. of Kenya (formerly Firestone East Africa) at No. 75 with sales of $43.6 million.

Deals made so far this year that could have an effect on the rankings next year include:

* Continental's acquisition of 51 percent of Matador A.S. of Slovak Republic. Matador ranked 36th this year with tire-related sales of $358.4 million; and

* Bridgestone's acquisition of Bandag Inc., which will boost Bridgestone's annual revenue by more than $900 million.

The average sales per employee of the major tire makers last year was $211,436, an 8.5-percent improvement over 2005. Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. topped this list at $389,151 and $350,069, respectively.

Finland's Nokian Tyres P.L.C. led the earnings list this past year, posting an operating profit/sales ratio of 18.3 percent and a net profit/sales ratio of 12.8 percent.

The average operating profit ratio for the 17 major tire companies for which data were available was 6.1 percent-down 1.6 percentage points from a year ago-while the net ratio was 1.5 percent, dragged down by losses by Goodyear, Pirelli & C. S.p.A., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Amtel-Vredestein N.V.

Of the 75 firms listed this year, 11 are from China; 10 from India; eight from the U.S.; five each from Taiwan and Japan; four from Russia; three each from Iran and South Korea; two each from Indonesia, Italy and Turkey; and one each from Argentina, Belarus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine and Vietnam.

* * *

Corp. sales per employee

Company: Sales/employee

Toyo Tire & Rubber: $389,151

Hankook Tire: $350,069

Kumho Tire: $340,436

Nokian Tyres P.L.C.: $318,107

Nexen Tire: $298,232

Sumitomo: $286,463

Yokohama: $278,136

Goodyear: $263,091

Tire Division: $288,431

Titan International: $251,650

Continental: $219,173

Tire Division: $234,640

Pirelli: $212,262

Pirelli Tyres: $196,889

Bridgestone: $203,598

Cooper Tire: $200,303

Michelin: $177,491

Apollo Tyres Ltd.: $109,368

MRF Ltd.: $94,267

Cheng Shin/Maxxis: $90,192

Source: Company annual reports, surveys

* * *

Companies by country

China: 11

India: 10

U.S.: 8

Taiwan: 5

Japan: 5

Russia: 4

Iran: 3

South Korea: 3

Indonesia: 2

Italy: 2

Turkey: 2

* One company each from 20 other countries.

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