Hankook Tyre Manufacturing Co. Ltd. reportedly said on Wednesday it was looking into building a new plant, but denied reports the Czech Republic had been singled out a possible site.

A source close to talks on the deal told Reuters on Tuesday Hankook, the world’s ninth-largest tyre maker by sales, was considering investing as much as $US500 million to build a plant in the Czech Republic.

“Currently, we are at the stage of studying a need to build a new plant driven by increasing demand. Therefore, nothing has been decided yet,” Hankook spokesman Kim Seong-jung told the news agency, adding: “We’ve not looked at that country or anywhere else.”

Reuters noted that South Korean companies have been increasingly targeting central and eastern Europe to get a low-cost foothold in Europe – Hyundai Motor on Tuesday selected neighbouring Slovakia for a new €700 million ($US870 million) plant which will start making Kia cars in 2006.

The Hankook spokesman reportedly said he was not aware that a group of senior Hankook executives would visit the Czech Republic this month to explore investment opportunities.