Sentury’s US plant on hold ‘indefinitely’

LaGrange, Georgia — China’s Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd has put on hold indefinitely plans to build a car and light truck tire plant in the US, according to various sources close to the project.

The company had disclosed plans in September 2016 to invest $530 million to build a plant in Troup County, Georgia.

The facility was to have capacity to produce 12 million car and light truck tires a year at full capacity, and generate up to 1,000 jobs.

Sentury originally projected the plant would be operating by 2018 but, to date, only minor site-preparation work has been carried out, local sources indicated.

An office set up by Sentury Tire North America (STNA) in LaGrange has closed, and Rami Helminen — a former Nokian Tyres executive who was hired in 2017 to head up the project — is now working in the US for Finrenes Oy, a Finnish biomass-to-fuels company.

Late last year the company consolidated separate US sales organisations — one attached to the Georgia plant project and one reporting directly to the parent company in China — under Miami-based Sentury Tire USA Inc.

The Development Authority of LaGrange posted a statement on its Facebook page 22 May stating that the “project is on indefinite hold” until the company can secure the financing necessary to complete the work.

The agency cited the uncertainty of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in China as the reason for delaying the US factory project.

Since announcing the project in 2016, Sentury Tire has said little publicly about the project, citing confidentiality restrictions related to the IPO — proceeds of which were designated in part to fund the construction of an aircraft tire plant in China.

Sentury officials in China and the US did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Jane Ho, ERJ China correspondent, contributed to this article