Business / Corporate

Nissan CEO Saikawa and new Renault chief Senard to discuss post-Ghosn alliance in Japan this week

Kyodo

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said Tuesday he plans to meet the new Renault SA chairman in Japan soon, with the focus of the talks apparently to be on the future of the alliance following the arrest of the two carmakers’ former chairman, Carlos Ghosn.

The talks between Saikawa and Jean-Dominique Senard, who will be making his first visit to Japan since being appointed Renault chairman in late January, will be held Thursday and Friday, according to a source close to the matter.

“I’ve been hoping for an early visit by him. It is good that it will likely be realized. I hope he will become well-acquainted with (Renault’s) relationship with Nissan and with our members at Nissan,” Saikawa told reporters in Tokyo.

The automakers have been working on a management revamp nearly three months after their former boss Ghosn was arrested in Japan over alleged financial misconduct at Nissan. He was dismissed as chairman by Nissan in November and resigned as Renault chairman in late January.

Nissan intends to appoint Senard as a new member of the board at an extraordinary shareholders meeting April 8.

But tensions remain between the two automakers over who will be the new chairman at Nissan or who will lead the alliance, which, with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. as a third partner, has become the world’s second-largest car group.

The French government, the top shareholder in Renault, apparently wants to secure influence over Nissan by having Senard become its chairman.

Nissan has been reluctant to move quickly on the issue, saying it wants to make a decision based on proposals to be compiled by a committee on enhancing corporate governance by the end of March. Saikawa has been critical of the concentration of power under Ghosn, who led the automaker for nearly two decades.

Ghosn’s arrest by Japanese prosecutors in mid-November has fueled speculation that the structure of the three-way alliance may be reviewed.

Renault holds a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan with voting rights. But some Nissan executives feel that the structure of the alliance is unfair, given that the Japanese automaker holds only a 15 percent stake in Renault without voting rights but now contributes about half of its net profit.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5