Work has begun on an estimated $90 million tyre factory in Deraa, south of Damascus. The factory will be built by a newly formed Law 10 venture, Syrian Tyre Company, which is 82.5 per cent owned by Frederick Soudan, a US investor of Syrian origin. Chinese investors including China Metallurgical Corporation and China Chemical Engineering CorporationBeijing Capital hold 15 per cent of the equity, and the remaining 2.5 per cent is owned by local businessman Mohammad Bashir Hijazi.

The plant will have a capacity of 2.1 million tyres a year. Production will start in early 2002, initially making up to 1.5 million tyres a year. The plant will produce semi-steel radial tyres of different kinds for passenger cars and light trucks.

The company says 900 workers and technicians will be employed at the plant which is to be built with equipment imported from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the US.

Due to low labour and energy costs, and an initial seven-year tax-free operational period, Soudan says he can compete with international companies in both the regional and worldwide markets. He says he aims to take a 2 per cent share in the Arab market, which accounts for around 15 million tyres a year.