PARIS (Reuters) - French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he would “talk again” with Renault boss Carlos Ghosn but reaffirmed his intention to boost the government’s voting rights in the carmaker in defiance of Ghosn’s wishes.
In comments to Reuters, Macron also confirmed that he wrote to Ghosn this week explaining his motives, and played down tension between the two men saying Ghosn was “not as angry as all that”.
Ghosn has demanded that the government step back from its decision to seek double voting rights in a vote at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on April 30.
He says it risks destabilizing Renault’s alliance with Nissan, the Japanese carmaker.
France’s stake in Renault and influence over Nissan, which is 43.4 percent-owned by the French carmaker and where Ghosn is also chairman and chief executive, has long been a sensitive matter.
Critics in the alliance and Japan fear Paris might put its own interests above those of the businesses.
Nissan holds a reciprocal 15 percent in Renault that is deprived of voting rights, another sore point in Tokyo, where Nissan is deemed to be under its alliance partner’s control.
This month the French government has increased its own voting stake from about 15 percent to just under 20. Its aim is to make sure it has enough to block Renault’s attempt to keep a one share, one vote structure for the remaining 85 percent of Renault shares at next week’s shareholders meeting.
By blocking the company’s move, the government would benefit from a law it passed last year that grants double voting rights to long-term shareholders.
“I talk all the time with Mr Ghosn. We were on the telephone this week and no doubt will be next week ... and this week I wrote to him. I think there is a working relationship. Mr Ghosn has our confidence,” he told Reuters.
Asked whether Ghosn was angry with the government, Macron added: “He is not as angry as all that. He has expressed disagreement, but once again ... the voting rights we hope to have... after the shareholder meeting are entirely in keeping with the overall balance of the alliance.”
Renault shares powered to a seven-year high earlier on Friday, closing up 3.7 percent after the company reported forecast-beating quarterly sales.
Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Greg Mahlich