• Kyodo


Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said Thursday it has acquired a majority stake in Morgan Tire & Auto Inc., a privately held independent tire retailer based in Clearwater, Fla.

The deal will boost the number of Bridgestone/Firestone outlets in the United States to 2,150 from 1,600, making the Japanese-owned tire maker the largest tire retailer in the U.S.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Bridgestone/Firestone, owned by Bridgestone Corp., has been increasing its stake in Morgan Tire since 1998 and became the majority owner in June. The company says it plans to acquire the remaining Morgan Tire shares by 2008.

It said Morgan Tire will remain an integral part of the Bridgestone/Firestone Family Channel, which includes independent dealers, retailers and company-owned stores.

“This strategic alliance will enable us to solidify our Family Channel and further grow our position in the marketplace,” Shu Ishibashi, executive vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone, said in a statement.

Bridgestone/Firestone, whose corporate image took a sharp hit following a series of tire recalls last year, apparently hopes to stage a turnaround by expanding its retailer network in the U.S. market.

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