Bridgestone dismisses 500 tyre retail branch acquisition reports

Bridgestone representatives have dismissed reports that the company is considering acquiring up to 500 tyre depots in the UK in a bid to go head-to-head with the leading tyre retailer in the UK, Kwik-Fit. According to the reports, which surfaced over the weekend in The Telegraph, Bridgestone “is seeking to buy eight to 10 regional automotive retail groups within a year and merge them into one brand.”

While this may sound like a fully formed plan for attacking the UK retail business – indeed in one of The Telegraph’s two online reports on the subject, the paper said Bridgestone plans to acquire 500 retail outlets so “it can have complete control over the supply chain” – it ain’t necessarily so.

In response to questions from Tyres & Accessories, Bridgestone representatives issued this statement: “Further to the article published by the Daily Telegraph on May 31st – ‘Bridgestone aims to rival Kwik-Fit in Britain’ – , Bridgestone European management would like to strongly deny the claims made in the article about its UK retail strategy. The company has no plans whatsoever to “acquire 500 tyre dealerships” in the UK and will not comment further on this article due to its highly speculative nature.”

So there we have it. A flat denial of all counts and a refusal to comment further. And that means the company has gone on the record as saying that it “has no plans whatsoever to acquire 500 tyre dealerships”. The more hawkish might point out that this still leaves room for plans to purchase eight to 10 regional groups. And of course there is always the possibility that the European management isn’t aware of the Japanese head office’s plans (the original Telegraph piece was written following a trip to Japan). However taking the statement at face value and considering the seriousness of the situation it is fair to say that the claims of a market domination strategy are somewhat, shall we say, inflated.

What we do know is that Bridgestone runs thousands of retail locations under its Firestone brand in the US. Furthermore – and much closer to home, the firm was involved in bidding for Kwik-Fit (something Tyres & Accessories reported at the time) both times it was put up for sale in 2005 and again in 2010. The retailer was eventually acquired by Itochu from French equity owners PAI Partners for £637 million in 2011.

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