Michelin, France’s foremost rubber plantation operator and tyre manufacturer in Nigeria, has decided to stop production at its tyre factory in the west African country.

Citing an official statement Agence France Presse (AFP) said Michelin earlier this week informed Nigerian authorities it would shut down its plant in southern oil city of Port Harcourt.

“It is a strategic decision related to problems with cost competitiveness at the plant…We already had temporary lay-offs in December and these lay-offs have now been extended until the end of 2007,” it said, according to AFP.

The company reportedly said that it was looking for a reputable firm to which it could transfer its assets in Port Harcourt.

Competition from Bridgestone tyres, the harsh economic climate, unrest in the Niger Delta by separatist groups who have kidnapped and usually released dozens of foreigners, as well as the government’s inability to enforce a ban on importing used tyres, influenced Michelin’s decision, a company spokesman told AFP.

AFP said Michelin, which has operated in Nigeria for more than 30 years, will continue to operate its rubber plantations there.