Japan's Kubota eyes U.S. fields with larger tractors

OSAKA, Japan Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:00am EST

OSAKA, Japan Jan 22 (Reuters) - Japan's Kubota Corp plans to sell powerful, large tractors in North America and Europe next year, its president said on Wednesday, challenging farm equipment industry leader Deere & Co.

Yasuo Masumoto, president of Japan's biggest farm equipment maker, told Reuters Kubota was seeking a joint venture with a European or U.S. company this year to produce the tractors, which will have a horsepower of at least 200.

The company had previously raised the prospect of adding the 200 horsepower tractors to its line-up through acquisitions, but Masumoto said that route would take too much time.

"There's no progress on an acquisition and we have to get into big machines," he said, adding that Kubota is targeting sales of about 300 units of these larger tractors in the year to March 2016.

The North American market for large tractors is dominated by U.S.-based Deere, CNH Industrial NV and AGCO Corp , while the main companies in Europe include unlisted Claas KGaA mbH.

Kubota is currently one of the world's biggest manufacturers of equipment used in paddy farming, but it wants to expand into the market for dry field crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans, which globally cover about four times the land area used for rice cultivation.

The company's tractors currently go up to 135 horsepower at most, which is insufficient for large farms.

Last year, Kubota invested 40.3 million euros ($55 million)in a new plant in northern France that will begin producing up to 170 horsepower tractors in April 2015 for the North American and European markets.