Renault and France at loggerheads as board clash looms

Sun Dec 6, 2015 1:34pm EST
 
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By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault is drawing up proposals to relinquish some power over alliance partner Nissan, sources said, and will on Monday begin shoring up boardroom support in the final days before a likely clash with the French government.

Renault remains on collision course with France, its biggest shareholder, in a dispute that erupted in April when Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron raised the government's stake in the carmaker to secure double voting rights.

With board-level negotiations making little headway, people with knowledge of the matter said Renault is preparing to make good on earlier threats to weaken its grip on Nissan, in which it currently holds a controlling stake of 43.4 percent.

"There's nothing that comes close to an agreement," a source close to the alliance said. "It's as if the government wants to find out whether it's a bluff."

At stake may be the future direction of Renault-Nissan. Under Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, the alliance ranks as the world's fourth-largest carmaker on a combined sales basis.

The conflict reflects the disparity between formal structure, in which Renault has nominal control, and operations under Ghosn, who heads both carmakers. Since its 1999 rescue by Renault, Nissan has far outgrown its French parent and now leads the way in many engineering projects and other areas.

Macron has warned Ghosn against making moves to loosen Renault's control of Nissan or leadership of the alliance.

"Any unraveling or weakening of the links between the two companies cannot be a solution," he reiterated in a Sunday newspaper interview. Renault-Nissan declined to comment.   Continued...

 
The Renault automaker company logo is displayed outside a car dealership in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, March 1,2013.   REUTERS/Regis Duvignau