The Czech Republic expects to hear in January whether Hyundai Motor  will build a new car plant in the east of the country, a regional government official told Reuters on Friday.

The news agency noted that Hyundai has said the EU newcomer was the ideal candidate to host its planned EUR1bn (US$1.2bn) factory to get the company closer to customers in Europe, but a final decision has yet to be made.

The decision had originally been expected by the end of the year, but protracted bargaining between regional officials and land owners in a planned eastern industrial zone in Nosovice preferred by Hyundai caused a delay, Reuters added.

But the report said the last obstacle was overcome this month when the final landowner agreed to sell property to allow for construction.

Regional governor in the northeast city of Ostrava, Evzen Tosenovsky, spoke to Kim Dong-jin, vice chairman of the Hyundai Motor Group, by telephone on Thursday to tell the firm the land was ready, Tosenovsky's spokeswoman told Reuters.

"The news was taken favourably and Mr. Tosenovsky was told the company would weigh all the pros and cons and make a decision in January," Sarka Swiderova, spokeswoman for the regional authority in Ostrava reportedly said.

Reuters noted that securing the Nosovice area for the plant has been the major challenge for the Czechs in their drive to have the investment confirmed.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, an advocate of doing all it takes to lure Hyundai into the area of high unemployment in the northeast of the country, reportedly is scheduled to visit South Korea in the middle of January.

Swiderova told Reuters it was possible that Hyundai would take his visit as an opportunity to make the announcement on the plant.