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Nissan sees 'no merit' in merger with Renault, says CEO Saikawa

Automaker determined to maintain its independence from Paris

Nissan and Renault have a long-term partnership. But Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa dismissed the idea of merging the two.

BEIJING -- Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa brushed aside the idea of merging the Japanese automaker with its French partner Renault, emphasizing the importance of independence amid pressure from Paris.

The French government, a major shareholder in Renault, is reportedly pushing for a merger. But "I see no merit" in combining the whole companies, Saikawa said in an interview with Nikkei on Wednesday. "I think it would have side effects." Saikawa is visiting Beijing for an international auto show.

Nissan seeks to maintain the current three-way alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors while striving to make management more efficient, Saikawa said.

Renault owns a 43.4% stake in Nissan, which in turn holds 15% of its French ally and 34% of Mitsubishi. "Striking a balance through a shareholding relationship is necessary" in order to avoid raising concerns and creating power games, said Saikawa.

The French government is intent on bringing Nissan under its influence as a way to grow the country's auto industry. With Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn's term set to expire, Paris is seen as tying his reappointment at the June shareholders' meeting to its request that the automakers' relationship be made "irreversible."

"The point of the alliance is to keep its members independent and maximize the growth of each," Saikawa said, adding that this arrangement will "produce synergies in areas like development and production."

Ghosn told Nikkei last week that "all options are open" when rethinking the capital partnership. Saikawa, as Nissan's CEO, is more concerned with its independence than is Ghosn, who chairs all three automakers.

Ghosn's term as CEO of Renault lasts four years. Regardless of changes in leadership, Saikawa himself included, the alliance must create a condition acceptable to everyone, "where work can be done stably," the Nissan CEO said.

Still, Saikawa appeared reluctant to clash with the French side, instead focusing on finding a three-way framework that would promote sustainable growth. "We can't try to force Nissan's logic or Renault's," he said. "We have to respect the French government's opinions as well."

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