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Nissan CEO to 'respond carefully' to Renault-FCA merger proposal

Hiroto Saikawa says contracts and 'complicated' operations 'need to be reviewed'

Hiroto Saikawa, president and CEO of Nissan Motor, shows concern about an already complicated alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. (Yoichi Iwata)

TOKYO -- Hiroto Saikawa, President and CEO of Nissan Motor, said the Japanese carmaker will "respond carefully" to the proposed merger between alliance partner Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Nissan will "consider the contracts signed by Nissan and Renault, and how common assets will be passed on," Saikawa told the Nikkei on Thursday.

Renault in 1999 rescued Nissan from near bankruptcy in a deal that gave the French automaker a 43% stake in Nissan.

"Operations are expanding in the framework of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors' current three-company alliance, and they need to be reviewed," Saikawa said. "Operations would become bigger and more complicated" with the inclusion of FCA.

If Renault and FCA go through with the merger and pull Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors along with them, the four-company alliance would have annual sales of over 15 million vehicles.

Saikawa said he will "need to meet and talk directly with FCA Chairman John Elkann."

The Nissan boss also said Jean-Dominique Senard, Renault's chairman, told him he should not be concerned about Nissan's position after the merger.

"There are many opportunities for Nissan" if FCA were to join the three-company alliance, Saikawa said.

But "if FCA and Renault's new company is built, the investment relationship with Nissan will change," he added, "which obviously has an impact. It is necessary to carefully examine various pieces of information."

Saikawa's remarks indicate that Nissan will need time before deciding whether to support the proposed merger.

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