Business

No need to review Renault-Nissan capital relationship, says French President Emmanuel Macron

Kyodo, Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday there was no need for Paris to lower its stake in Renault SA, and that his government sees no reason to review the current capital structure between the French carmaker and Nissan Motor Co.

Relations have been strained between the alliance members since the shock arrest in November of former boss Carlos Ghosn, but Macron referred to that as an individual situation that should not have a bearing on their partnership.

“Nothing in this situation justifies changing the cross shareholdings, the rules of governance, and the state’s shareholding in Renault, which has nothing to do with Nissan,” Macron told reporters.

The remark by Macron, who is visiting Japan for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, came after Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said earlier in the week he is ready to discuss a review of the “unbalanced” cross-shareholding structure as needed. The French government is the largest shareholder in Renault.

“It is the result of history,” Macron told reporters in Tokyo, referring to the structure set up two decades ago when Renault saved Nissan from the verge of bankruptcy. Currently, the French automaker holds a 43.7 percent stake in Nissan, which has a 15 percent nonvoting stake in Renault.

Macron’s comments contradicted recent remarks by Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire that the government was ready to reduce its 15 percent stake in Renault in the interest of bolstering the automaker’s alliance with Nissan.

“I wish for the group to maintain its stability, concentrating on the essential, and that synergies between Renault and Nissan continue to be strengthened,” Macron said.

“The future of the group is how it can become leader in electric vehicles and one of the leaders in autonomous vehicles … I think the future is more of a growing integration.”

Some executives at Nissan see the structure as favoring Renault at a time when the Japanese automaker sold 5.65 million vehicles worldwide last year — 1.5 times more than its French peer.

Meanwhile, Macron met Thursday with Emperor Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, before traveling to Osaka for the G20 summit.

Macron is the second foreign leader after U.S. President Donald Trump to meet the new emperor, who ascended to the throne on May 1 after his father and former Emperor Akihito abdicated at the end of April.

The imperial couple greeted the president and his wife, Brigitte, without interpreters at the entrance of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and had a luncheon, joined by their nieces, Princess Mako and Princess Kako.

Emperor’s luncheons with distinguished foreign guests visiting in an official capacity, not including state guests, had been scrapped since 2016 to reduce the burden on Emperor Naruhito’s 85-year-old father, but were revived upon the ascension of the 59-year-old emperor.

The emperor, then the crown prince, met with Macron in September 2018 when he visited France on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and attended a dinner hosted by the president and his wife.

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