Thursday , October 21 2021

Renault-Nissan: the path of the cross of Jean-Dominique Senard


Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on March 12, 2019 at a press conference at Nissan's Yokohama headquarters (AFP / Behrouz MEHRI)

Named in February to save the alliance with Nissan, Renault's president Jean-Dominique Senard, an experienced industrialist known for his diplomatic skills, is weakened by failing to calm tensions in the Franco-Japanese auto partnership. .

"He is not going to resign, he says he has received many messages of support from employees, directors of Renault, the state and even dozens of bosses, he suffers, but he will fight to the end."

However, difficulties accumulate in this extraordinary question. The latest episode, a letter to Nissan chief Hiroto Saikawa, in which Mr. Senard explains that he will not vote at the general shareholders' meeting to reform the governance of the Japanese group, providing for the creation of three committees for which important Powers will be confident.

The letter, described by Nissan as "extremely lamentable", "should never have been passed on to the media," a source close to Renault said.

It is for Mr. Senard to protect the influence of the French manufacturer, Nissan's largest shareholder with 43% of the capital, and not question the reform.

In this letter, which AFP was able to consult, Jean-Dominique Senard asked Mr. Saikawa that one or two Nissan directors appointed by Renault would be appointed to each committee.

In Paris, it is certain that a solution will be found, with a fair representation of Renault, and that this resolution can finally be voted at the GA on June 25.

"Nissan sees Renault as a partner, while Renault wants to claim its shareholder rights," a file said.

Meanwhile, the case further complicates the already tormented relations between the two 20-year allies since the November arrest of emblematic alliance chief Carlos Ghosn, the victim of a Nissan complaint for alleged financial negligence.

– "No hands free" –

The publication of this letter comes just days after the cancellation of Renault's marriage to Fiat Chrysler (FCA), led by Senard. This project was abandoned last Thursday, just 11 days after its official announcement, the Italian-American manufacturer preferred to throw in the towel because of the reserves of the French state, Renault's largest shareholder, facing the reluctance of Nissan.

The rumor of his resignation lasted a few hours at the company. Some say "bruised", "weakened" or claim that "it is no longer credible".

At the age of 66, at the time of making the apron of his boss, the tire giant Michelin, where his record is considered excellent, Senard had nothing to prove. This son of a diplomat and an aristocratic mother, reputedly elegant and affable, a practicing Catholic, had said to come "to serve."

But "he does not have free hands, neither with Nissan, nor with the state," estimates a connoisseur of the file.

On the one hand, Paris supports it, but on the other hand, the French government delays it in the FCA archive or makes unsolicited announcements, such as that of the Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, in Japan, indicating that the French state was ready to reduce its share (currently 15%) in the diamond group. Mr Senard was not aware, according to agreed sources.

"The state took a considerable risk" by failing to support the proposed merger with FCA, "shakes hands with Nissan in a surprising and paradoxical way," another source close to the suit said.

On the Japanese side, Senard has little room for maneuver because the secret agreements (known as "Rama") governing relations between Renault and Nissan prohibit since 2015 that the directors nominated by Renault will vote against the leaders of the Japanese ally.

"The whole relationship with Nissan was designed by and for a man on the cornerstone," Carlos Ghosn summarizes a close Renault. However, Ghosn was president and CEO of Renault, but also president of Nissan and the other Japanese Mitsubishi, while Mr. Senard is just the president of Renault.

So when Senard negotiates a marriage with FCA, he can not inform his shareholder of Nissan, under penalty of insider trading, says one of Renault. But the "Rama" predicts that Nissan will be informed, putting it in an impossible situation. This question did not arise when Mr Ghosn centralized all powers.

rim / ef / EB

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