Titan CEO says still hopes to buy part of French Goodyear plant

PARIS Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:42am EDT

PARIS Oct 25 (Reuters) - U.S. tyre company Titan International still wants to buy part of the Goodyear plant in northern France that has been earmarked for closure, provided that unions agree, Titan's CEO said in a radio interview on Friday.

The factory in Amiens makes agricultural and road tyres and employs 1,200 staff. It belongs to Goodyear France, a subsidiary of U.S. firm Goodyear which wants to close the plant because it says the road tyres business is unprofitable.

Titan Chief Executive Maurice Taylor had previously expressed interest in buying the factory, then ditched his plan after visiting the plant and meeting with the union, complaining the plant was not worth saving and the workforce was lazy.

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said this week that Taylor was reconsidering his position.

"He's a good guy," Taylor said of Montebourg in an interview with Europe 1 radio. "Your minister asked me, 'Are you going to invest, hire? And we agreed... Everyone who knows me knows that if I make a deal, I keep my word."

Taylor's offer to buy the factory's agricultural tyre division while abandoning road tyre production resembles his previous offer, which would have saved more jobs but was rejected by the CGT union.

Montebourg still needs to convince the CGT to accept any new deal, which would save 333 jobs out of 1,200, Taylor said.

"There have still got to be some leaders at the CGT who have a brain," said Taylor, known as "the Grizz" for his gruff manner.

The CGT said on Wednesday it was ready "to do anything possible" to find a solution.

Auto parts suppliers in France have been forced to scale back operations due to overcapacity in car production and dwindling auto sales.