Renault and Nissan set two-year target to boost alliance

A badge sits illuminated on a Renault SA Symbioz concept car during the first media preview day of the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Bloomberg pic)

TOKYO: Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. have given themselves two years to decide on a possible merger between the two automakers or find an alternative mechanism to enhance their partnership, people familiar with the matter said.

A solution to cement ties would be found before Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of both the automakers, is due to step down as the chief executive officer of Renault in 2022, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. Ghosn, currently serving a four-year CEO term at Renault, had previously said he may step down before his tenure ends. Renault shares rose as much as 3.1%, the most in seven weeks.

The carmakers are in talks about options including setting up a holding company and putting Renault and Nissan under that umbrella, according to the people. Bloomberg News reported in March that Renault and Nissan are in talks to merge under a single stock, a move that could help them pool resources better in the new age of electrified vehicles and autonomous driving. Ghosn has since pared down expectations of a quick deal to combine the companies, saying the spectre of failed mergers in his industry loomed large.

“The alliance is continually reviewing options for the evolution of our business,” Jonathan Adashek, a spokesman for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, said in an email. “There are no changes to our operational or shareholding structure to announce, and no established timeline for this to occur.”

Representatives at Nissan and Renault declined to comment.

Ghosn, also chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., said last month the two Japanese carmakers won’t be taken over by Renault. There are many possible ways of sustaining Nissan’s alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, he also said. The French carmaker owns 43.4% of Nissan while the Japanese company owns 15% of Renault. Nissan owns 34% of Mitsubishi Motors.

One possibility would be to base the holding company in London or the Netherlands, where cross-Atlantic carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has its corporate charter, Bloomberg has reported. Fiat Chrysler maintains headquarters in both Italy and the US.

The partnership has a complicated structure with Renault holding a large voting stake in Nissan, which has no voting rights in its smaller and less valuable partner. In 2016, Ghosn added Mitsubishi Motors to the mix after the company had been caught falsifying mileage estimates for several of its vehicles.

In 2002, the two companies formed Renault-Nissan B.V., a joint company incorporated under Dutch law and equally owned by Renault and Nissan. The company is responsible for the strategic management of the alliance.

Renault shares were trading 1.9% higher at 73.77 euros as of 1.35 pm in Paris, while Nissan shares were up 0.2% at the close in Tokyo.