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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Renault wants seats on Nissan's pay and nomination committees

Senard voices displeasure with Japanese partner's governance reforms

Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of Renault, speaks during French carmaker's shareholders meeting in Paris on June 12.   © Reuters

PARIS -- Renault's chairman on Wednesday argued that the French automaker should have participation in Nissan Motor's reformed governance, while expressing a desire to mend fences between the two alliance partners.

"I would like the two representatives of Renault to have a seat" on at least two of the committees, Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said during the company's shareholders meeting.

The shareholders meeting was the first to be broadcast live online with simultaneous Japanese interpretation.

The comments come amid renewed tensions between the two car companies. Senard's appointment in January was followed by a period of rapprochement, but it has been tested by the question of how close their alliance should be.

As part of a governance overhaul in response to the arrest of powerful ex-Chairman Carlos Ghosn, Nissan has proposed establishing nomination, remuneration and audit committees composed mainly of outside directors. Renault fears this will lead to a loss of influence for the French automaker.

Renault intends to abstain from Nissan's shareholder vote on the governance plan -- a move that essentially dooms the motion, since it requires a two-thirds majority to pass and the French company holds a 43.4% stake.

In April, Nissan turned down a pitch from Senard to merge the two carmakers. Renault later considered a merger proposal from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which withdrew its offer last week after Nissan said it needed time to assess the impact of such a deal.

Amid these tensions, Senard said his focus is on repairing ties with Nissan. "After the Carlos Ghosn case, the alliance was more damaged than it looked," he said. "The priority is to restore a strong alliance."

Senard said he is not looking for a fight with Nissan, adding: "We want to have dialogue."

At the same time, Senard said he is disappointed with how the FCA merger proposal played out, blaming a difference of opinion with the French government, Renault's largest shareholder.

Senard hinted at the possibility that the FCA merger would be resurrected, saying the integration "remains in my mind a remarkable and exceptional project."

Renault shareholders rejected by 88.66% a proposal to pay Ghosn a performance-based bonus of 224,000 euros ($253,558) for 2018. Management had urged shareholders to vote against the motion on payment to Ghosn, who awaits trial in Japan on charges of financial wrongdoing following his arrest last November.

The French government, which controls 28.6% of the voting shares, voted against the motion.

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