Japanese tyremaker Bridgestone has posted a strong rebound in first-half earnings and announced a $250 million programme to boost its global production capacity.

Bridgestone posted a first half group net profit of 24.5 billion yen ($202 million) a sharp rebound turnaround from a 30.6 billion yen loss in the first half of 2001, when the company was feeling the financially damaging effects of a recall by its US Firestone unit.

Sales rose by around 6 percent in the first half to 1.09 trillion yen.

Bridgestone, which relies on the US for about half its sales, raised its full-year net income forecast 7.7 percent to 70 billion yen.

The company also said that it will raise annual car tyre output by 8 million, or 5 percent. In its first major expansion since the Firestone recall affair, the company said it would lift production capacity at plants in Asia, Latin America and Poland over two to three years. No new investments were planned for the United States.

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Bridgestone first-half sales in the US rose 12 percent, helped by a weaker yen, Bridgestone said. The company also forecast that its US Firestone unit will have $50 million in net income this year, versus a $1.68 billion loss the previous year. The unit’s first-half loss narrowed to $14 million from $497 million a year ago, the company said.

Bridgestone has been replacing Firestone brands with Bridgestone tyres in the US, which now make up about half its US sales.