Renault and Nissan reach a landmark agreement to save their alliance
Renault and Nissan have reached a landmark agreement to save their troubled 24-year partnership and persuade both parties that it can continue without Carlos Ghosn as its leader.
After the disruption and internal disputes that followed Ghosn’s arrest more than four years ago, the hard-fought agreement opens the way for the carmakers to reestablish a working level of trust and resume cooperation in specific technical areas.
The automakers have agreed to equalize their stakes in each other as part of the deal, which has not yet been officially approved by the Nissan board. This removes a source of tension that has plagued the relationship ever since it began.
People who are familiar with the two businesses said that as they try to advance in the highly competitive market for electric vehicles, greater cooperation will be crucial.
Following Nissan’s dissatisfaction with the lopsided structure of the alliance, the breakthrough comes after months of deadlock in which executives at Renault hoped the reset would just create enough goodwill to move forward with joint projects.
It is also hoped that it will close the tumultuous chapter that began when Ghosn left the company following his arrest in 2018 on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied.
According to the groups, Renault of France will transfer a 28.4% stake to a French trust, where voting rights will be “neutralized” for the majority of decisions, reducing its 43% stake in Nissan of Japan to 15%.
They added that although Renault is under “no obligation” to divest within a specific timeframe, it will sell the trust’s shares when it makes financial sense. In the meantime, as part of the agreement, Nissan will get the voting rights it had long wanted and keep its 15% stake in Renault.
The deal also includes an agreement for Nissan to invest in several new joint production plans and take a minority stake in Renault’s electric vehicle spin-off Ampere.
According to the two businesses, the joint projects in Europe, India, and Latin America aim to “reload the partnership.”
People who were familiar with the discussions claim that negotiations had been going on for months and that the final details had not been settled even a few hours before the statement was released.
The non-executive directors of the Japanese automobile manufacturer raised the most objections. One of the people said that they were worried about whether the deal “would sufficiently protect Nissan’s interests.”
Ghosn, the alliance’s former leader, was largely successful in covering up the differences, despite the fact that the imbalance in shareholding caused underlying tension.
The alliance nearly fell apart for the first time in two decades due to his departure and the absence of a strong leader.
According to Nissan associates, the new framework allowed the two businesses to have more constructive discussions regarding technology sharing and strategy.
“There can’t be a worse situation than the current one. There was just distrust and hardly any cooperation any more,” said one person familiar with the alliance.
According to Bernstein analyst Daniel Röska, the “Gordian knot” that bound the two companies was finally resolved by the deal.
“Deal sweeteners in order to get Nissan over the line on the Ampere IPO,” he stated, referring to the new joint projects.
In a time when automakers around the world need to make significant investments in electric vehicles and other innovations, maintaining the partnership enables the groups to at least retain some tangible savings, such as from joint purchasing programs.
Because Renault was attempting to increase revenues and margins under chief executive Luca de Meo, the French automaker also required Nissan’s approval for some aspects of its own reorganization. This included the planned Ampere spin-off, which, according to those with knowledge of the plans, should launch on the London stock market this year.
The dispute between Nissan and Renault over intellectual property rights related to some of the involved technology has largely been resolved.
Additionally, a new division devoted to combustion engines, including gasoline and hybrid motors, is expected to be established by Renault. The unit will sell engines to third parties and bring assets from Chinese automaker Geely.
Four people who are close to the talks said that Saudi Aramco is in talks with Renault and Geely. Saudi Aramco could invest with a stake of 10 to 20 percent, and the two carmakers would be equal partners in the rest of the venture.
The terms of that deal have not yet been agreed upon, but according to three people, the unit would be worth between 5 and 10 billion euros if Aramco invested in it. Research into synthetic fuels has been conducted by the Saudi oil group.