Nissan and Renault equalise shareholdings to iron out voting conflict

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Nissan and Renault have equalised their company shareholdings at 15% to iron out a source of conflict in the Japan-France car alliance.

Renault Group will transfer 28.4% of the Nissan shares it owns into a French trust, so its stake will be the same 15% that Nissan has in the French vehicle maker.

Voting rights would be “neutralised” for most decisions, the two companies said.

The move had been anticipated because of leaks to various media outlets.

Japan Nissan Renault
Nissan and Renault formed an alliance in 1999 (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

The disparity was a cause of friction, especially after Nissan became far more profitable than Renault.

The cross-national alliance, creator of the Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, remains one of the world’s largest auto groups.

But it has had ups and downs since it began in 1999, when Renault sent one of its executives, Carlos Ghosn, to then-struggling Nissan to lead a turnaround.

Ghosn first served as Nissan’s chief executive and later its chairman before he was arrested in late 2018 on various financial misconduct charges.

The Nissan-Renault alliance, which also includes smaller Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, has been eager to put the Ghosn scandal behind it.

Allegations against Ghosn include underreporting income, using investment funds for personal gain and illicit use of company expenses, including overseas homes and a yacht. Ghosn said he is innocent of all charges. He jumped bail in late 2019 and is now in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

The equalisation of the crossholdings has been speculated about for some time. The agreement on the change is still being finalised and needs board approvals from both companies.

The companies called the move “an important milestone”.

“The ambition is to strengthen the ties of the alliance and maximize value creation for all stakeholders with a three-stage approach,” said Nissan, based in the port city of Yokohama.

The agreement calls for Nissan to invest in Ampere, an electric vehicle and software company founded by Renault. The companies will also work together on marketing, vehicles and technology in Latin America, India and Europe.

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