Business / Corporate

Renault mulls cutting stake in Japan's Nissan to win support for Fiat merger

Kyodo

Renault SA is considering reducing its 43.4 percent stake in Nissan Motor Co. in a bid to gain support from its Japanese partner for the revival of its merger plan with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., according to sources close to the matter.

The merger proposal was dropped in June after two members sent from Nissan deferred making a decision on the plan at a Renault board meeting.

The French-Japanese group has started discussions on changes in the alliance’s capital structure and may reach an agreement in September at the earliest, the sources said Monday.

Nissan has a 15.0 percent nonvoting stake in Renault and wants a more balanced cross-shareholding structure.

Despite Renault having a larger control over Nissan, the Japanese company sold 5.65 million vehicles worldwide last year, 1.5 times more than the French partner.

A feud surfaced between the two companies earlier in the year when Renault initially opposed Nissan’s governance reform plan and suggested it would vote against it at an annual shareholders meeting in June. Nissan conceded by giving Renault more representation in its new oversight committees.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has said he aims to review the “unbalanced” capital structure of the alliance with Renault.

Nissan is aiming to reduce Renault’s stake to 20 to 25 percent while the French automaker envisions holding 30 to 35 percent, The Financial Times reported Monday.

A small circle of top executives from the two automakers began talks about the structure change after the merger proposal between Renault and Fiat Chrysler collapsed in June.

The French automaker asked for a written proposal from Nissan about the conditions under which the Japanese alliance partner “would consider that an agreement with FCA would be acceptable,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley told The Financial Times that the Italian-American carmaker was still “interested in hearing” from its French rival, adding a combination offers “significant synergies.”

Fiat Chrysler offered a merger proposal to Renault in May but retracted it over a week later following interventions by the French government, the largest shareholder of Renault, in which it demanded Nissan’s support for the planned merger.