Renault seeks greater role in Nissan governance reform

Japan Economic Newswire |

Renault SA Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said Wednesday he was unhappy with part of alliance partner Nissan Motor Co.'s plans to bolster corporate governance after the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

At an annual shareholders' meeting in Paris, Senard said Renault CEO Thierry Bollore should be added to new committees to oversee executive nominations, compensation and audit at Nissan.

Renault has a 43 percent stake in the Japanese automaker, which holds a 15 percent non-voting stake in its French peer.

"In Nissan's proposal, I am the only member (from Renault) appointed for the committees, and CEO Bollore is not included," Senard said at the meeting.

Also a Nissan board member, Senard said he supports its efforts to strengthen governance.

The Japanese automaker will propose its plan for establishing committees and the appointment of members at its annual shareholders' meeting on .

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday the two automakers have "slightly different views" on who should be appointed.

"We are discussing the matter" with Renault, he said.

Saikawa said Renault remains an important shareholder and partner for Nissan.

Renault's discontent clouds the outlook for Nissan's months-long efforts to install a post-Ghosn management. The French automaker recently told Nissan in a letter it plans to abstain from voting on the proposal at the general shareholders' meeting.

That could block the plan to form the three statutory committees as the Japanese automaker needs to secure a two-thirds majority.

Nissan wants the committees chaired by outside directors, and the majority to be comprised of such independents, as Ghosn, who faces charges of understating remuneration and misuse of company assets, had effectively handled this aspect as chairman of the board and the company. Ghosn denies all charges.

Nissan faces another challenge in launching a new board. Two major U.S. proxy advisory firms -- Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co LLC -- have recommended investors vote against Saikawa's reappointment as board member at the shareholders' meeting, saying it would be inappropriate to retain the person who did not spot Ghosn's alleged financial misconduct.

Following Ghosn's arrest last November, differences have surfaced between the two carmakers over how to strengthen their alliance in the face of a rapid industry shift to electric and self-driving vehicles.

Nissan opposes Renault's intention to integrate operations, reflecting the wish of the French government, Renault's top shareholder.

Renault made a merger offer, rejected by Nissan, in mid-April. Saikawa has said the Japanese carmaker wants to focus on revamping its faltering sales for now.

The French government recently softened its position. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said it would not stick to the idea of a merger between the two automakers, according to French media.

In May, Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. quickly dropped its proposal to merge with Renault, citing French government involvement in the negotiations.


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