AKRON Modify debt obligations, Goodyear asks lenders

The company told employees it may idle 15 percent of its North American tire plants this year.
AKRON (AP) -- Goodyear Tire & amp; Rubber Co. said Thursday it is asking its lenders to modify the struggling company's debt obligations.
The company also said it will not release its 2002 fourth-quarter earnings report until the negotiations with its banks are completed.
Robert J. Keegan, Goodyear president and chief executive officer, said the negotiations with lenders "should provide us the financial resources, including access to capital markets, to meet the ongoing needs of our business and drive our turnaround."
Waivers granted
The company has already been granted waivers until March 7 to make pension payments totaling $500 million over federal requirements.
Goodyear told employees in a company newsletter in January it may idle 15 percent of its North American tire-making capacity this year. But Goodyear spokesman Chuck Sinclair said the company had no immediate plans to shut any North American tire plants.
On Tuesday, Goodyear's board eliminated the company's dividend, which had been paid for 66 consecutive years.
The company's shares lost 10 cents to close Thursday at $3.57 on the New York Stock Exchange after finishing at a 52-week low on Wednesday.
The company manufactures tires, engineered rubber products and chemicals in more than 90 facilities in 28 countries. It employs about 92,000 people.

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