France plays down selling Renault stake after Japan visit

French finance minister said it was a long-term plan, and that his priority is reinforcing the Renault-Nissan alliance and protecting jobs

An image grab from an AFP TV interview with French finance minister Bruno Le Maire. Mr Le Maire softened comments he made following the collapse of discussions between Fiat and Renault to form a global car manufacturing powerhouse. AFP
An image grab from an AFP TV interview with French finance minister Bruno Le Maire. Mr Le Maire softened comments he made following the collapse of discussions between Fiat and Renault to form a global car manufacturing powerhouse. AFP

France is open to cutting its 15 per cent stake in Renault to mend its partnership with Nissan after the French automaker’s talks with Fiat Chrysler abruptly collapsed earlier this month - but it isn’t looking to do it anytime soon.

A day after saying that France was prepared to consider reducing its holding in Renault, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire added that this was a long-term plan, and that his priority is reinforcing the Renault-Nissan alliance and protecting jobs and sites in France.

“On the agenda, there is: strengthening the alliance and protecting jobs, industrial and research sites,” Mr Le Maire said Sunday during the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Fukuoka, Japan. “The second step will be consolidation - only if all parties are on board.”

The comments follow the collapse of discussions between Fiat and Renault to form a global car manufacturing powerhouse. The talks ended abruptly earlier this month when Fiat withdrew its offer after France asked for more time to seal the deal as it tried to get the backing of Nissan.

France’s holding in Renault has long been the source of complaint by the Japanese automaker. Nissan has been seeking more sway in its two-decade partnership with Renault since Carlos Ghosn, who led both companies, was arrested in Japan over alleged financial crimes. Mr Ghosn has denied the charges.

Nissan would prefer a full exit because the state’s activism has generated tension within the alliance and it’s not clear that a reduction of the French stake would change that, according to a person familiar with the matter.

On Sunday, French newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported that Fiat managers informed French authorities on their interest in Renault during the Christmas holidays. The finance ministry then worked with Fiat for two months, before getting into more substantial discussions with Renault, JDD reported, citing anonymous sources. A spokesman for the French finance ministry declined to comment on the report.

Mr Le Maire also sought to take a step back by insisting that it was up to the management at Renault and Nissan to determine how to reinforce their relationship, and that it wasn’t his role to meet with Nissan’s CEO during his trip to Japan.

“All options are on the table,” he said, adding that “the second step will be industrial consolidation” amid pressure to build more electric and autonomous cars. “To reach success, we have to do this together - Renault and Nissan, France and Japan.”

Published: June 9, 2019 05:51 PM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one

Most Read