* Michelin CEO says no clear signs of truck segment upturn
* Passenger car sector improving but far from 2007 levels
* Would look at partnership opportunities if they came up
FRANKFURT, Sept 15 (Reuters) - French tyre manufacturer Michelin (MICP.PA) is seeing some signs of improvement in the market for passenger car tyres, but the truck market is still struggling, Chief Executive Michel Rollier said on Tuesday.
“What we’re seeing today is a slight upturn (in passenger markets) — but we’re still very far from 2007 levels,” said Rollier at the Frankfurt Motor Show, adding that in the truck segment — where production has plummeted, “we’re not seeing much recovery.”
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Rollier said he thought a significant part of the improvement seen in passenger car sales seen in recent months was linked to scrapping schemes, explaining carmakers’ anxieties about the schemes coming to an end.
However, “in the first quarter of 2009, it was like a sinking ship. It was a destocking crisis, and I don’t think we’ll see that again,” said Rollier.
“Today, natural rubber prices have gone up. I’m remaining very cautious — I don’t rule out another increase in 2010,” Rollier said. If Chinese growth continues we’re going to have an increase in raw material prices — we have to be prepared.”
Rollier said he could not rule out forming partnerships with fellow tyre manufacturers, although the group is not looking at any particular opportunities at the moment. “Until now we’ve favoured internal growth but we mustn’t rule it out. I’m sure there will be some opportunities in a few years because there are many new producers and there perhaps isn’t room for everyone. We are very opportunistic — if there are good opportunities we’ll go for them. But you have to go for them at the right moment.”
Michelin managing partner Jean-Dominique Senard also said the group did not rule out acquisitions in Asia.
(Reporting by Helen Massy-Beresford and Gilles Guilllaume; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)
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