Nissan’s Saikawa to stay on as president, Renault chief to join board

Nissan’s Hiroto Saikawa will stay on as president clearing off speculations about his future in the automobile company. (Bloomberg pic)

TOKYO: Japan’s Nissan Motor will keep Hiroto Saikawa on as president and will bring in the chief executive of alliance partner Renault as a board member, two sources briefed on the matter said on Friday.

Renault Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bollore is due to join the board, the sources said, while the French automaker’s chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, will remain on Nissan’s board.

The appointments are expected to be announced on Friday and presented for approval at a Nissan shareholder meeting in June.

There has been widespread speculation about Saikawa’s future and the coming make-up of the board after Nissan this week flagged a 28% drop in annual profit and slashed its dividend, underscoring its struggle to turn the page after the ouster of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

The board make-up has implications for Nissan’s alliance with its top shareholder, Renault.

The unequal relationship between them – smaller Renault has the bigger stake in Nissan – has long been a source of friction in Japan.

A Nissan spokesman said the company could not comment on speculation. Renault has been pushing for merger talks between the two companies and Saikawa has been seen as an obstacle, several people have told Reuters.

Ghosn’s November arrest in Japan and immediate ouster by Nissan strained the partnership, as Renault resisted a full investigation of alliance finances and kept its absent leader in office as chairman and CEO for two more months.

Ghosn, who denies any wrongdoing, is out on bail and awaiting trial in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct and allegedly enriching himself at Nissan’s expense.

The former chairman of powerful Keidanren business lobby, Sadayuki Sakakibara, widely seen as a potential Nissan board candidate, will not be appointed, the sources said, declining to be identified because the information has not been made public.

Nissan will also increase the number of board seats to 11 from eight, and will double the number of outside directors, to six, public broadcaster NHK said, citing sources. Nissan’s shares were little changed in Tokyo trade, underperforming a 1.5% rise in the Nikkei share average.