Hankook Tire to set up plant in Tennessee

ATLANTA, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- Hankook Tire Co., the world's seventh-largest tire maker by sales, has decided to set up a plant in the U.S state of Tennessee, a senior U.S. auto industry official said Wednesday.

Senior officials of the South Korean tire maker plan to visit the southern state next week to sign a memorandum of understanding with U.S. officials on building the plant near Nashville, the official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement was made.

In Seoul, Hankook Tire spokeswoman Kim Hae-kang said that last-minute negotiations with Tennessee are under way, though she did not give any further details.

Last month, Suh Seung-hwa, vice chairman and CEO of Hankook Tire, said his company will make a final decision on the plant site among Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee by the end of this year.

Suh said the proposed plant, which would have an annual production capacity of around 10 million units, is designed to boost his company's market share in the U.S., which currently stands at 5 percent.

His comment came just days after Kumho Tire Co., South Korea's second-biggest tire maker, announced its plan to complete construction of its suspended plant in Georgia.

Kumho Tire broke ground for its first plant in Georgia in 2009, but the project has since been stalled as creditors placed the company under a debt workout scheme to help its parent group ease a liquidity squeeze.

However, Kumho Tire did not give a specific time frame as to when it will resume construction of the plant.

Hankook Tire said it has a combined annual production capacity of about 94 million tires at its plants in South Korea, China, Indonesia and Hungary, and ships its products to 180 countries around the world.

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