Renault-Nissan integration not 'on the table', says French Finance Minister

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was responding to a Nikkei report that the government is proposing to put the carmakers into a single holding company
Renault-Nissan integration not 'on the table', says French Finance Minister
By Bloomberg
Sun 20 Jan 2019 05:11 PM

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said there are no plans “on the table” to change the alliance between Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. after Nikkei reported that the government is proposing an integration that could put the carmakers into a single holding company.

“No shareholding re-balancing or modification of cross shareholdings between Renault and Nissan are on the table,” Le Maire said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche. He reiterated that France wanted “solid and stable” governance at the helm of the company.

A delegation including Martin Vial, a Renault director designated by the French government, visited Japanese officials in Tokyo last week, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg News. The officials discussed the integration plan, and as well Renault’s wish to appoint Nissan’s next chairman following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, Nikkei reported, without saying where it got the information.

The auto titan is accused of financial crimes that could put him behind bars for decades. Ghosn has been indicted for understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars and transferring personal trading losses to the carmaker. Nissan also claims that Ghosn misused company funds, including for homes from Brazil to Lebanon, and hired his sister on an advisory contract.

Two months after the arrest stunned the global automotive industry, the Japanese carmaker is weighing abolishing the chairman role as it steps up reforms to rebuild governance. The scandal has also strained the company’s partnership with Renault, a union held together by Ghosn for two decades.

Ghosn was reportedly planning a merger between the two carmakers before his arrest, Nikkei said. An email sent to Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield went unanswered Sunday.

Tension has been rising between Nissan and Renault over their respective powers within each other’s boardrooms. Through complicated cross shareholdings, Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, which in turn owns 15 percent of the French automaker without voting rights. Last month, Renault said it planned to name a new director to the board of Nissan and safeguard power within their alliance.

“Renault wants to exercise the possibility to name its directors and this will be done at a shareholders’ meeting,” Vial, who is also head of the agency that holds the French government’s stake, said in an interview on BFM Business.

Earlier, Nissan Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa rebuffed the French carmaker’s demand for a meeting of all shareholders to discuss Nissan’s governance, something it would need to do to change its board representation.

Ghosn is also on the verge of being ejected from the roles of chairman and CEO at Renault, with the French finance minister last week calling for his dismissal.

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