French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss Nissan Motor Co. in a meeting next week before the gathering of G-20 leaders, a French government official said.
France is pushing for stronger industrial ties between Renault SA, the country’s largest carmaker, and Nissan, the official said. The two-decade alliance between the manufacturers has grown fraught following the November arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who oversaw both companies and their partnership.
Tensions escalated when Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, pursued a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles without initially telling the Japanese company. Talks ended after Nissan failed to explicitly back the deal, prompting France to seek a delay and provoking Fiat to withdrew its offer. Now Renault and the French state, its most powerful shareholder, have pledged to repair the relationship with Nissan before any FCA deal.
The latest flare-up between Renault and Nissan came when Senard demanded greater representation on Nissan board committees, and threatened to abstain from supporting its partner’s corporate governance plan at the annual general meeting on June 25. Given Renault’s 43 percent stake in Nissan, an abstention would make it difficult for the measure to pass because it requires a two-thirds vote.
In an unusual public response, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa called the threat “most regrettable,” but later said he was “trying hard” to make progress in reaching a common understanding with Renault about the reforms. The companies have since reached a compromise, NHK reported, without attribution.
The lopsided shareholding arrangement between the firms has been a long-running source of friction: Renault’s 43 percent stake in Nissan comes with voting rights, while Nissan’s 15 percent holding in Renault does not. A fear of losing power led the Japanese manufacturer to rebuff a merger approach from Renault in April.
Renault CEO Thierry Bollore, speaking with reporters in New Delhi Wednesday, declined to discuss the rift over board representation, saying such internal matters shouldn’t appear in the media. He did say reducing Renault’s stake in Nissan is “not at all” on the agenda.
As for the failed talks with FCA, Bollore said that “regrets in this type of situation are quite normal,” but that at the moment there is “nothing” going on. “What will be the future, I don’t know,” he added.