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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Paris tells Tokyo it wants Renault-Nissan integration

French side seeks to name Japanese automaker's next chairman

The logos of car manufacturers Renault and Nissan are seen. The French government wants to bring the automakers under the same umbrella.

PARIS -- The French government informed Tokyo this week that it will seek to integrate Renault and Nissan Motor, most likely under the umbrella of a single holding company, Nikkei has learned.

A delegation including Martin Vial, a Renault director designated by the French government, visited Japan to relay Paris' intentions to Japanese officials. The delegation also said Renault wants to name Nissan's next chairman, a post that has remained vacant since the ouster of arrested alliance chief Carlos Ghosn. The original alliance agreement gives the French automaker the right to choose top Nissan leaders.

As simmering tensions between the two partners rise to the surface in Ghosn's absence, Paris -- Renault's largest shareholder -- has renewed its yearslong push for a merger. Nissan has opposed a combination, not least because the French government would be a major stakeholder in a shared holding company, potentially giving it greater sway over the Japanese automaker.

The French government owns about 15% of Renault, which in turn controls 43.4% of Nissan. Nissan holds only a 15% nonvoting stake in its French partner.

Renault is expected to appoint Ghosn's replacement as chairman and CEO soon, with Paris leading the search for a successor. The new leadership could take a harder line in negotiations with Nissan at the behest of the French government.

The French government has sought integration between the two automakers to render the alliance irreversible, a position that some speculate owes to Renault's dependence on Nissan for research and development as well as for much of its profit. Ghosn was reportedly planning a merger of the two before his arrest and removal.

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