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In 1872 Giovanni Battista Pirelli, a young engineer, founded Pirelli & C. in Milan at the age of twenty-four. A year later, the first facility for the production of rubber articles was up and running.
Toward the end of the century the process of diversification began: from insulated telegraph cable (1879) to underwater telegraph cable (1886) to the first bicycle tyres (1890). The first automobile tyre came off the line in 1901. With the new century, Pirelli began enjoying its first sporting victories and building plants abroad: in Spain (1902), Great Britain (1914) and Argentina (1917).

Starting in the 1920s, drivers like Nuvolari, Ascari and Fangio regaled Pirelli Tyres with a rousing series of auto racing trophies. In 1927 the Superflex Stella Bianca racing tyre was introduced.

The beginning of the 1950s saw the birth of the Cinturato radial, which would leave a decisive mark in the history of tyres. In the meantime, Pirelli continued with its massive geographical expansion, which proceeded through the '60s and '70s, acquiring the German tyre manufacturer Veith, while starting up cable production facilities in Perù (1968) and Australia (1975). In the mid-'70s Pirelli invented the low profile tyre, the famous P7, one of the most important inventions in the industry after the Cinturato radial. Another discovery revolutionised the world of cables: fibre optics.

During the 1980s Pirelli acquired the German motorcycle tyre maker Metzeler and Standard Telephone Cable, manufacturer of telecommunications land cable.

After a company-wide restructuring in 1992-93, Pirelli implemented an international relaunch, and in 1994 presented the Pirelli P Zero ultra-low profile tread, used for the most prestigious tyre models.

In recent years, Pirelli Cables & Systems has reinforced its position of primacy in the energy field with the acquisitions of Siemens (1998), Metal Manufactures Ltd and Draka Holding (1999).

The new millennium saw yet another revolution in the tyre sector: the MIRS™ production system, introduced in 2000, for the automated fabrication of high-performance tyres.
While MIRS™ "mini-factories" were built in Germany, Great Britain the United States, extending also to motorcycle tyre production, in 2002 the Bicocca pilot plant in Milan began operating its futuristic CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing) system.

2001 saw the opening of Pirelli Labs, the cutting-edge development division for the Group's new technologies, from photonics and fibre optics to material sciences.

As for real estate, after a decade of steady growth that made Pirelli the most important player in the Italian real estate panorama, Pirelli RE went public in 2002.

In 2004 the core business of the Group expanded to include new activities in the fields of broadband access and photonics (Pirelli Broadband Solutions), as well as those regarding the environment and renewable energy sources (Pirelli Ambiente Holding).

In 2005 Pirelli Labs extended its activities into research on pressure sensors and process innovation, while the first Pirelli tyre production plant in China opened in the city of Yanzhou, and a new steelcord plant was inaugurated in Slatina, Romania.

In 2006 all tyre-related activities were grouped together under Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.

In 2007 the Car segment was characterized by greater volumes and by continuous growth in the high performance tyre sector, where Pirelli once again confirmed its leadership with the launch of the new Pzero. During the year, Pirelli Tyre launched a new manufacturing unit for car tyres in China and expanded and consolidated the activities of the new industrial pole in Romania, with the goal of strengthening its presence in the markets of the Far East and Central-Eastern Europe.

The sale of the stake in Olimpia, completed during 2007, allowed Pirelli to focus further on its core businesses and to carry out a plan for distribution of resources to shareholders and optimizing the equity structure.

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