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Slovakia eyes BMW for fourth car plant

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Slovakia is eyeing a possible investment by German luxury carmaker BMW as the eastern European eurozone nation seeks to shift up its auto manufacturing sector.

Slovak officials said Monday they would welcome BMW, which is reportedly looking at opening a factory in eastern Europe where production costs are lower than in Germany.

"Slovakia is one of the countries under consideration for BMW's new investment," economy ministry spokesman Stanislav Jurikovic told AFP Monday, without disclosing further details.

Investors including auto manufacturers are eligible for either "cash incentives or tax breaks" from the Slovak government depending on the region in which a company chooses to invest, he noted.

Slovakia already hosts factories owned by Germany's Volkswagen, South Korea's Kia and Peugeot Citroen of France, which rolled out 900,000 cars last year.

BMW said last week that it planned to invest in new production capacity, and board member Ian Robertson was quoted by Slovakia's leading Hospodarske Noviny business daily as saying the company was looking at Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia as potential locations for a new plant.

Unlike its German rivals Mercedes and Volkswagen, BMW does not have any factories in low-cost eastern European countries.

BMW told AFP it had made no decisions, but that it regularly explores different countries all over the globe as potential locations for future production sites.

Slovakia is already the world's top per-capita car producer, with the sector accounting for 39 percent of overall economic output.

But "there is definitely room for another car plant in Slovakia," the head of the country's Automotive Industry Association, Jaroslav Holecek, told AFP.

The auto manufacturing sector employs 74,000 people in the ex-communist country of 5.4 million.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130325/slovakia-eyes-bmw-fourth-car-plant