Goodyear’s net income for the fourth quarter of last year amounted to US$ 47.8 million compared with US$ 121.5 million in the fourth quarter of 1998. The company’s net income for the whole of 1999 was US$ 241.1 million compared to US$ 682.3 million in 1998.
Financial analysts are predicting that Michelin’s net profits for 1999 will be between 350 million and 661 million Euros. The reason for the unusually large spread is that no-one knows exactly what provisions will be made in the accounts to cover charges for restructuring.
Following a few months of indifferent performance, stock market analysts are meanwhile promoting tyre manufacturers’ shares as a good buy. The reasons for this optimism are that the rise in prices of raw materials (rubber, oil, carbon black) appears to have stopped, or at least slowed down, and that price increases announced in the USA are holding.
Goodyear recently turned in a bullish report on its first quarter performance. The market was impressed, as the company’s shares rose 47% from its 52-week low in March. Industry analysts predict a good performance from Goodyear in the short term, with shares rising further.
In the USA, Cooper Tire & Rubber shares have seldom been so cheap. With the recent acquisitions, the market was not convinced that Cooper was running in the right direction, but after the first quarter’s good results, most have changed their opinions and are regarding Cooper with more optimism. An increasing number of experts are convinced that the Cooper management might use the low share price to buy back up to 10% of its own stock, which would have a positive effect. Apart from Cooper, Continental was the only other tyre and rubber manufacturer whose shares were tipped as a “buy” by analysts.
A Deutsche Bank analyst raised the Goodyear rating to “buy” because he believed in a turnaround story. Some analysts agreed, others saw Goodyear shares still only as “neutral”. But now it is different. Based on the latest statements from Goodyear, there are massive doubts regarding volumes and whether the pricing trend will be favourable. Analysts now believe that the situation will not improve before next year and that Goodyear shares will remain low.
The differentiation within the Goodyear brand, which has been most conspicuous in North America, will soon be a thing of the past. On Thursday Gibara declared in front of analysts in New York that the Goodyear brand will in future only be a premium brand; the group’s range will be complemented by Dunlop (medium brand) and Kelly (economy/budget brand).
Finnish tyre manufacturer Nokian has achieved a net turnover of 199 million Euros in the first nine months of this year; an increase of around 20 %. Operating profit is 18.4 million Euros (9 % lower than the previous year). Nokian is pursuing a strategy of expansion and, this year, will invest some 31 million Euros, with the aim of increasing production capacity by 50% within five years. At the moment, Nokian is trying to purchase ISKO, Finland’s largest tyre dealer with a turnover of approximately 65 million Euros. Analysts say that ISKO is financially very strong and very profitable.
Goodyear has told bank analysts that it will close a large factory in Italy that produces six million tyres a year. Goodyear produced about 55 million tyres in Europe this year and intends to reduce the production capacity from 72 million tyres (after the Dunlop take-over) to about 62 million by 2002. After Goodyear’s shares lost more than 40 per cent of their value, they announced plans to close more than one factory and increase production in the remaining European plants by introducing a seven day operation.