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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Replacing Ghosn not urgent, Nissan CEO says

Saikawa hints process will take time despite Renault's push for action

Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa speaks at a news conference at its global headquarters in Yokohama on Dec. 17, 2018.   © Reuters

PARIS -- Finding a successor to former Chairman Carlos Ghosn is not a pressing concern for Nissan Motor, President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa told French newspaper Les Echos in an exclusive interview posted online Monday.

Asked whether he himself could replace Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan this past November, Saikawa said choosing a new chairman is not an urgent matter.

Certain conditions must be met before the board can make a decision, he said.

Alliance partner Renault has been pushing the Japanese company to hold a shareholders meeting as soon as possible, hoping to pick new key executives from within its own ranks. But Nissan has rejected these demands amid a growing power struggle between the partners.

Saikawa also addressed talk of Nissan and Renault reviewing their capital relationship. What is important now is to stabilize the situation, he said, leaving capital ties for discussion only after things calm down.

Renault is Nissan's top shareholder, at 43%, while Nissan has a nonvoting 15% stake in Renault.

The French government, Renault's biggest stockholder, has since Ghosn's arrest repeatedly urged the automakers to keep the alliance intact. Saikawa offered reassurances that there is no problem having France as a shareholder and that the government does not force Nissan to do anything.

He also dismissed speculation that Ghosn had tried to oust him. Saikawa said that he did not know whether Ghosn made such an effort and that while they did have some disagreements, they did not reach the point where Saikawa felt threatened.

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