Sri Lanka – Belgian tyre giant looks to roll faster

May 31, 2007 (AFP) – One of the world’s biggest solid tyre makers is trying to double its turnover and turn Sri Lanka into a key exporter of rubber products. “People keep asking us if its safe to live here, invest here and I say ‘yes’. We have had no problems. There are always risks associated with any business and you need to work around them,” he said.

Raw rubber has been the country’s second largest export commodity after tea, but a Belgian-Sri Lanka joint venture is trying to re-invent the way wheels are made and make the island a global hub for tyres.

Solideal Loadstar is one of Sri Lanka’s best kept secrets and its biggest exporter, accounting for just over two percent of the nation’s near seven billion dollar export earnings.

“In the world market, we now control 20 percent in the solid tyre and about five percent in the industrial tyre markets,” chairman Nihal Jinasena told AFP.

“Any fool can make a tyre,” said Jinasena, whose family controls 40 percent of Solideal Loadstar.

“What is difficult is to keep innovating, penetrate markets worldwide and to support your sales.”

Loadstar’s closest rival in the global solid tyre mar