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Renault lawyers air ‘serious concerns’ about Nissan methods

Lawyers for French carmaker Renault have criticised their Japanese alliance partner Nissan for its handling of an internal probe into the Carlos Ghosn scandal, a Sunday newspaper has reported.

Renault lawyers air 'serious concerns' about Nissan methods
Renault-Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn takes part in a press conference in Paris in October 2017. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP
In a letter to Nissan dated January 19, the lawyers said they had “serious concerns about the methods used” by the company and its legal team, including the way they treated some Renault employees, according to France's Le Journal du Dimanche.
   
Former head of the alliance Ghosn is being held in Japan on charges he under-reported millions of dollars in pay as head of Nissan.
   
“Renault has gathered sufficient evidence to understand and regret the methods used by Nissan and its lawyers to seek interviews with Renault employees through the Japanese public prosecutor's office,” they said.
   
Nissan was seeking “evidence to support allegations against Carlos Ghosn after his arrest” and failed to consult its French partner, according to the newspaper.
   
The firm also tried to search Ghosn's apartments in Brazil, Lebanon and the Netherlands without informing Renault, the letter added.
   
A Nissan spokesman told AFP on Sunday that the letter which they received weeks ago has “already been reviewed and fully addressed in a series of verbal and written responses from Nissan's external attorneys.”
 
 “The communications in question do not reflect the current state of discussions with Renault and its lawyers,” said Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield. “Nissan… has always welcomed an open and direct dialogue with its partners to help uncover relevant facts”, he added.
   
The executive's arrest in November has exposed rifts between Renault and Nissan, which some analysts say was bristling at Ghosn's efforts to bring the two automakers' operations even closer together.
   
Ghosn was the linchpin of the three-way alliance, which also included Mitsubishi Motors, earning industry plaudits for driving together a sometimes fractious threesome with headquarters 10,000 kilometres apart.
   
Much of the tension between the partners stems from a complex ownership structure that gives Renault 43 percent of Nissan, whereas Nissan owns just 15 percent stake in the French company — and no voting rights.

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RENAULT

France ready to cut Renault stake to shore up Nissan partnership: minister

France is ready to consider cutting its stake in Renault in the interests of consolidating the automaker's alliance with Nissan, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday.

France ready to cut Renault stake to shore up Nissan partnership: minister
A Renault employee works at the automaker's factory in Maubeuge, northern France. File photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP
He was speaking in Japan after Italian-US carmaker Fiat Chrysler pulled the plug on its proposed merger with Renault, saying negotiations had become “unreasonable” due to political resistance in Paris.
 
In an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the G20 finance ministers meeting in Japan, Le Maire said Paris might consider reducing the state's 15-percent stake in Renault if it led to a “more solid” alliance between the Japanese and French firms.
 
“We can reduce the state's stake in Renault's capital. This is not a problem as long as, at the end of the process, we have a more solid auto sector and a more solid alliance between the two great car manufacturers Nissan and Renault,” he told AFP.
 
Last week, FCA stunned the auto world with a proposed “merger of equals” with Renault that would — together with Renault's Japanese partners Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors — create a car giant spanning the globe. The combined group would have been by far the world's biggest, with total sales of some 15 million vehicles, compared to both Volkswagen and Toyota, which sell around 10.6 million apiece.
 
But the deal collapsed suddenly on Thursday, with FCA laying the blame at the door of Paris. 
 
“It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” FCA said in a statement.
 
Le Maire said Renault should concentrate on forging closer ties with its Japanese partner Nissan before seeking other alliances.
 
Things need to be done “in the right order…. First the alliance (between Nissan and Renault) should be consolidated and then consolidation (more generally) and not one before the other.”
 
“Otherwise, everything risks collapsing like a house of cards,” he warned.
 
The minister said it would be up to the bosses of Renault and Nissan to decide how to push the alliance forward as ties between the two firms have been strained after the shock arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn.
 
Renault is pushing for a full merger between the pair but there is deep scepticism of the plan at Nissan.
 
There were varied reactions from the French unions Saturday.
 
“The government is behaving like the agent of the big shareholders, favouring short-term profit to the detriment of the interests of the country,” said Fabien Gache, of the CGT union.
 
Cutting the state's share in Renault was abandoning its responsibility in the country's auto industry, he argued.
 
Franck Daout of the CFDT union said it backed a three-way alliance between Renault, Nissan and Japan's Mitsubishi — but not one between Nissan and Renault until the alliance had reached a “safe and sustainable maturity”.
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