U.S. tire maker to invest in Serbia

BELGRADE -- Officials of the Serbian government and the U.S. company Cooper Tire signed on Thursday a framework investment contract.

(Beta)
(Beta)

The document states Cooper Tire will invest over EUR 50 million and hire 700 people in the town of Kruševac in the first stage.

Minister of Economy Nebojša Ćirić and Cooper Tire executive Hal Miller signed the contract. President Boris Tadić, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković and U.S. Ambassador Mary Warlick attended the ceremony.

The U.S. company bought a tire factory in Kruševac, owned by Trayal, for EUR 13 million. The rest of Trayal will be owned jointly by the government and the current owner, Brikel from Bulgaria. The government will have a 25-percent share.

Serbia has great potential, which foreign investors have recognized, said Tadić, adding that the government would work to create an even better business environment.

"Every company coming from the U.S. is a good sign and we expect Cooper Tire to send a positive message about Serbia to the U.S.," he noted.

It is very difficult to attract investors in the current circumstances, he pointed out, adding that all countries were having problems attracting foreign investors.

Last year, Serbia had an investment level higher than Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia put together, but it is not yet satisfied, the president remarked.

"We have a great obligation to bring in new foreign investors in the future and we will work together on that most important job for Serbia, I, the prime minister and Minister Ciric, regardless of our constitutional powers," he stated.

An automotive industry cluster formed in Serbia after the agreement with Fiat was signed, Tadić pointed out, announcing efforts to attract more foreign companies from that sector.

"We wish to become a country where large and important companies will be making cars in the future," he stressed.

Tadić congratulated Cooper Tire on coming to Serbia and said he expected the tires made in Serbia to be exported throughout the world. He also expects the U.S. company to be pleased with the quality of the workforce in Serbia, like other investors.

Cvetković stated that the USD 1.75 billion of investments in Serbia in the first three quarters of 2011 were not excellent, but were still a 100-percent increase compared to 2010.

Cooper Tire recognized Serbia's potential and the business environment as a place where they can score a profit , said Cvetković, adding that the contract with the U.S. company and the ones that are yet to come indicated that the trend of investing in Serbia will continue in 2012 as well.

He called on Cooper Tire to pass their good experiences from Serbia to other U.S. companies and bring the bad ones to the government's attention, so they could be addressed.

Cooper Tire CEO Roy Armes said the company had picked Serbia for its quality workforce, good geographical location and Serbian government support.

The arrival of Cooper Tire will bring profit to the company, jobs to the people of Kruševac, tax revenue to the government and high-quality tires to the consumers, he stated.

Ćirić remarked that even though it had seemed Trayal would be remembered by its bad privatization, the contract with Cooper Tire showed it could be a lasting solution for the Kruševac-based company.

The Serbian government can attract multinational companies even to the south of Serbia, he underscored, explaining that the Trayal factory would operate under the Cooper Tire name after the purchase.

Cooper Tire is one of the biggest tire makers in the world. They have 60 facilities around the globe and they also own Avon tires from the UK.