Nissan will seek review of Renault shareholding structure

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Flags of Japan, France and Nissan outside Nissan's global headquarters in Yokohama.

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TOKYO – Nissan will request an evaluation of the shareholder structure of its alliance with Renault, and move forward to establish a fairer cooperation between the two car manufacturers, a few days after the shock of Carlos Ghosn, according to a person familiar with the plan.

The assessment relates to the issue of voting rights, the person said, and asked not to be identified as the information is not public. Renault has more influence on Nissan than the Japanese company in its French partner, a field of tension during their two decades long relationship.

The plan indicates that Nissan is moving quickly to gain a stronger position in the alliance, with Ghosn out of the picture.

Ghosn sent both Renault and Nissan for years and had worked on a merger of companies. He was expelled as chairman of Nissan Thursday after his arrest in Japan due to suspected financial violations.

The power relations at Nissan are now in the direction of CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who has emerged as a driving force behind the investigation into the alleged abuses of Ghosn. Meanwhile, the French side has become blind because of the rapidly unfolding events. Saikawa, an opponent of a merger between companies, can try to improve the bargaining position of the Japanese car manufacturer in a partnership that he says has long preferred the French side.

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Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan and has the right to vote on decisions by the board, while the Japanese car manufacturer owns 15 percent of the French company but has no voting rights. That imbalance has existed since the alliance in 1999 was formed as a way to scale up against competitors worldwide. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. was added to the pact in 2016.

A Nissan spokesperson answered no phone call and an e-mail in which he wanted to respond to a public holiday in Japan.

According to Japanese corporate law, Renault's voting rights could be canceled if Nissan increased its stake to more than 25 percent in the French car manufacturer. Under French rules, if Renault would lower its stake in Nissan below 40 percent, it will help the Japanese car manufacturer to get voting rights in the French company.

Recently, the structure in Japan has become increasingly more controversial due to the strong financial performance of Nissan. Although Renault's growth in sales and profits has generally outgrown, the Japanese company has much less influence within the alliance.

The arrest of Ghosn has brought to light further disturbances that have alternated the Japanese and French sides with successes and struggles over the years. Nissan is by no means happy with what it regards as a foreign French role, and Saikawa reported the imbalance at the late press conference he called Monday following Ghosn's arrest.

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