Nissan CEO hints at intention to review alliance with Renault

26, Nov. 2018

TOKYO, Kyodo - Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa on Monday hinted at his intention to review the alliance with Renault SA during a meeting with company employees to explain about the arrest of the carmaker's former chairman Carlos Ghosn last week, according to company sources.

The relationship is "not equal," Saikawa was quoted as saying, while also apologizing to the employees for undermining their trust in the company, the sources said.

Following the arrest on Nov. 19, Nissan dismissed Ghosn as chairman at its emergency board meeting last Thursday. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the third partner in the Japanese-Franco alliance, is also set to strip Ghosn of his role as chairman at its board meeting later Monday. Ghosn remains CEO and chairman of Renault.

The three-way alliance that has been led by Ghosn is seen to favor Renault, even though Nissan has contributed about 50 percent of the French automaker's net income in recent years.

Renault owns a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, which holds a 15 percent stake in its French peer but with no voting rights and 34 percent in Mitsubishi Motors.

The French government is also involved in the complex structure, being the top shareholder of Renault with a stake of about 15 percent.

The top executives of the three automakers are making arrangements to hold a meeting to discuss how to run the three-way alliance this week, sources familiar with the matter have said.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday on BFM TV that he hopes the alliance will continue to be led by a person from Renault and to maintain the shareholder structures in the group.

Le Maire also said Renault has launched an investigation into whether Ghosn conducted misdeeds over his remuneration and company assets, with the outcome expected to be concluded as early as this week.

Ghosn was arrested for alleged underreporting his remuneration by around 5 billion yen ($44 million) for five years through fiscal 2014. He received nearly 10 billion yen during that period.

Greg Kelly, a Nissan director, was also arrested along with Ghosn on suspicion of conspiracy and was dismissed as representative director at the board meeting. Both Ghosn and Kelly have denied the charges, according to sources close to the matter.

Nissan has said an internal investigation uncovered Ghosn's "significant" misconduct, including underreporting his remuneration and misappropriation of funds to cover private expenses, which were carried out for a long time. It also said Kelly was "deeply" involved in the misdeeds. (Kyodo)