updated 9/17/2004 12:01:41 PM ET 2004-09-17T16:01:41

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has reached a $1.2 billion deal to sell its automotive group, which accounted for nearly half of its overall sales last year, the company said Friday.

New York-based equity group, The Cypress Group, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners have joined together to buy Cooper-Standard Automotive, based in Novi, Michigan.

The unit, which had revenues of about $1.66 billion in 2003, makes fluid handling and body sealing systems.

Cooper agreed to sell the automotive unit for $1.16 billion in cash. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

Overall, Findlay-based Cooper had sales of $3.5 billion last year.

The company said it would use money gained from selling the auto unit to reduce debt, invest in tire operations or repurchase shares.

Cooper chairman Thomas Dattilo said the company may be better off concentrating on its tire business and expanding overseas.

Cooper has more than 20,000 employees and 52 manufacturing facilities in 13 countries.

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