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Nissan-Renault alliance

Renault chairman in no hurry to rebalance alliance with Nissan

Senard emphasizes need for French and Japanese automakers to deepen relationship

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard speaks to reporters in Yokohama, Japan on Oct. 9. (Photo by Ryo Asayama)

TOKYO -- Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on Wednesday reiterated that his top priority is to ensure a deeper relationship between the French carmaker and its Japanese alliance partner -- and not necessarily to address a situation in which the smaller company, Renault, has the larger stake in the more global Nissan Motor.

"The first priority is that the alliance goes ahead," Senard told Japanese reporters in Yokohama. "We need to bring Nissan back on track, [which] will help in strengthening the alliance."

"The question for me is not about what is the best balance of shareholdings."

Renault owns a 43.4% stake in Nissan, while the Japanese automaker holds 15% of its French partner. The arrangement stems from 1999, when Renault rescued Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.

In April, Renault proposed a merger to solidify the relationship -- something former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn had been about to do before his arrest last November on charges of alleged financial misconduct. Ghosn denies any wrongdoing.

In seeking an "equal" relationship, Japanese executives have been eager to decrease Renault's stake in Nissan. The two automakers have been holding intermittent discussions about the companies' capital ties.

Senard said he is "extremely happy" with Nissan's new management changes, approved on Tuesday. Senior Vice President Makoto Uchida, who now serves as the head of Nissan's China business, was appointed CEO, while Ashwani Gupta, chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors, has been appointed Nissan COO. In another move, senior vice president Jun Seki has been given the title of Vice COO.

There is "a balance and a mix of personality and [the appointees are] very complimentary of each other," Senard said. "The new CEO and COO are both conscious of the need of the alliance."

French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Tuesday that Senard plans to replace Renault CEO Thierry Bollore. Senard believes Bollore's close ties to Ghosn could hinder the alliance going forward, according to the newspaper. The report said Senard is considering whether to raise the issue at a board meeting on Oct. 18.

"You will hear a lot of noise," Senard said. "I am here [today] because I am a Nissan director and the vice chairman of the board of Nissan." He declined to comment further on the Le Figaro report.

Nikkei staff writer Eri Sugiura contributed to this report.

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