Bridgestone Corp. will invest about $100 million to build a synthetic rubber plant in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China to meet what it anticipates will be the surge in tire demand in Asia.
The new plant, due to become operational in 2008, will produce 50,000 tons per year of styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). The synthetic rubber plant will supply its output mainly to Bridgestone Group’s tire plants in China as well as other areas in Asia.
Earlier this year, Bridgestone announced plans to build a $300-million tire plant in Huizhou to produce radial tires for trucks and buses. The plant, scheduled to begin operation in January 2007, will be the company’s fourth tire plant in China. Bridgestone produces passenger car tires at plants in Wuxi and Tianjin and truck and bus tires at a plant in Shenyang.
Bridgestone Group already produces synthetic rubber at two plants in the United States. The decision was made to build and operate a plant for the production of enhanced-performance rubber especially for China and Asia in line with an expected surge in demand in those areas. Bridgestone concluded a licensing agreement with JSR Corporation regarding the technology used to produce the enhanced-performance synthetic rubber.
JSR Corporation is a leading Japanese producer of SBR, with an annual capacity of 215,000 metric tons.
Bridgestone held 18.2% of the global tire market in 2004, behind Michelin and ahead of Goodyear.
In October, Sumitomo Rubber Industries announced that is had developed and will launch next year a specialty tire made with a smaller-than-usual proportion of synthetic rubber, which is made from petroleum. Sumitomo Rubber roughly halved the share of synthetic rubber used in the tire. It also increased the share of a genetically engineered natural rubber, which is made from the latex sap of the rubber tree. (Earlier post.)