White smoke: Nissan and Renault agreed overnight Monday to Tuesday to overhaul their alliance after months of negotiations, with formal announcements now scheduled for late January-early February.
During a Nissan board meeting on Monday, the independent directors of the Japanese manufacturer “gave the green light”, a source familiar with the matter in Japan told AFP on Tuesday, January 17, speaking of a moment ” historical”.
An operational council of the alliance is scheduled for January 26 in Japan to finalize the agreements and the latter should be signed “the following week”, according to this same source.
A source close to Renault confirmed this schedule on Tuesday, with an official announcement expected between late January and early February.
The Renault-Nissan file was on the menu of discussions last Monday in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, while the French state owns 15% of the French manufacturer.
And a letter from French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire to his counterparts in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) was decisive in reassuring certain independent directors of Nissan about the intentions of Paris, according to the source in Japan.
Negotiations between Renault and Nissan had been dragging on for months because they involved several interrelated aspects, making the operation particularly complex.
On an equal footing
The French group, which unveiled its future architecture in five different poles last November, plans to reduce its share in the capital of Nissan to 15% against 43.7% currently, according to several sources interviewed by AFP in recent months.
For the first time since their marriage in 1999, the two groups would thus find themselves on an equal footing, each holding 15% of the capital of the other and with as many voting rights.
This rebalancing is seen on both sides as a way to normalize and make more efficient relations between the two automakers, which have known great tensions in the past, especially after the spectacular fall of the emblematic boss of the alliance Carlos Ghosn, arrested at the end of 2018 in Japan after accusations of financial embezzlement and who fled a year later to Lebanon.
The authoritarian management of Mr. Ghosn and the interventionism of the French State in the affairs of Renault a few years ago, with in particular his former project to merge the two groups, had been very badly digested in the Japanese archipelago.
“Achieving cross-shareholdings at 15-15%, with fair conditions, would be very important and beneficial for the confidence between the two groups” and could encourage Nissan to take more initiatives within the alliance, said recently AFP Takeshi Miyao, consultant in the automotive sector at Carnorama Japan.
The approximately 28% of Nissan’s capital that Renault would agree to sell will, however, first be placed in a trust created for this purpose. Because their current market value is much lower than that recorded in the accounts of the French manufacturer, which will wait for better days to sell them, probably over time.
Accelerate together in the electric
Nissan will also take up to 15% of Ampere, Renault’s future electric pole to be listed on the stock market in the second half.
The exact amount that Nissan will invest and the technologies that it will bring to Ampere have yet to be defined, “but it is not blocking” now to sign an agreement, according to the source familiar with the matter in Japan interviewed by AFP, assuring that the Japanese group is “motivated” to join this entity, as it accelerates itself in electric vehicles.
“Nissan has good electric technologies, better than Renault”, according to analyst Takeshi Miyao, taking up an opinion widely shared in Japan.
But “Renault has an electric market in Europe”, one of the regions of the world where the prospects for this segment are currently the most promising, which is attractive for Nissan, he notes.
Concerning Horse, the future division bringing together Renault’s thermal engine activities abroad with the Chinese Geely, Nissan has no longer had any objections for a few months, restrictions on the use of some of its technologies having been adjusted in order to prevent this new company from entering into direct competition with its own products.