According to people that have knowledge of the matter and talked to Reuters, France has gained Japan’s cautious acknowledgement of its deeper involvement in Renault.
The move to bolster the French influence and Tokyo’s acceptance come even as chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn has warned on numerous occasions the Paris strategy could jeopardize Renault’s alliance with its long running Japanese partner, Nissan. According to government officials that remained anonymous, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron talked about the issue through letters and later face to face with his Japanese peer recently. Macron moved to increase France’s holding in Renault from 15 to 19.7 percent to make sure the government gets double voting rights through an April shareholder meeting. While claimed to be temporary, the stake increase allowed France to veto Ghosn’s proposal against granting double votes to long-term investors and thus would enable a permanent increase in influence when it becomes effective next April.
While Nissan only owns a reciprocal non-voting 15 percent stake in Renault, numerous warnings have been coming from the Japanese partner about their 16-year-old alliance and delicate balance of forces – Renault owns 43.4 percent of its Japanese peer. “We have not sensed any problem for the Japanese government,” commented an unnamed French source. The manner of imposing more authority through minority holdings in a wide range of companies has been seen as a threat to CEO Ghosn’s influence and autonomy. Additionally, since 1999 when Renault rescued the Japanese per, Nissan has outgrown its controlling partner both in terms of sales and profit share.