Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault are looking for ways to resuscitate their collapsed merger plan and secure the approval of the French carmaker's alliance partner Nissan, according to several sources close to the companies. Nissan is poised to urge Renault to significantly reduce its 43.4% stake in the Japanese company in return for supporting a FCA-Renault tie-up, two people with knowledge of its thinking also told Reuters. It is still far from clear whether any concerted effort to revive the complex and politically fraught deal can succeed. FCA Chairman John Elkann abruptly withdrew his $35 billion merger offer in the early hours of June 6 after the French government, Renault's biggest shareholder, blocked a vote by its board and demanded more time to win Nissan's backing. Nissan representatives had said they would abstain. The failure, which FCA and Renault blamed squarely on the French government, deprived both companies of an opportunity to create the world's third-biggest carmaker with 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in promised annual synergies. It also shone a harsh light on Renault's relations with Nissan, which have gone from frayed to fried since the November arrest of former alliance Chairman Carlos Ghosn, now awaiting trial in Japan on financial misconduct charges he denies.
(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing and Giulio Piovaccari in Milan; Editing by Richard Chang)
TOKYO — Nissan wasn't consulted on the proposed merger between its alliance partner Renault and Fiat Chrysler, but the Japanese automaker's reluctance to go along may have helped bring about the surprise collapse of the talks. While Nissan Motor Co. had a weaker bargaining position from the start, with its financial performance crumbling after the arrest last year of its star executive Carlos Ghosn, it still had as its crown jewel the technology of electric vehicles and hybrids that Fiat Chrysler wanted. The board of Renault, meeting Thursday, didn't get as far as voting on the proposal, announced last week, which would have created the world's third biggest automaker, trailing only Volkswagen AG of Germany and Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. When the French government, Renault's top shareholder with a 15% stake, asked for more time to convince Nissan, Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann abruptly withdrew the offer. Although analysts say reviving the talks isn't out of the question, they say trust among the players appears to have been broken. "The other companies made the mistake of underestimating Nissan's determination to say, 'No,' " said Katsuya Takuechi, senior analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.
The Note, an electric car with a small gas engine to charge its battery, was Japan's No. 1 selling car, the first time in 50 years that a Nissan beat Toyota and Honda. Renault and Fiat Chrylser highlighted possible synergies that come from sharing parts and research costs as the benefits of the merger. But what Fiat Chrysler lacks and really wanted was what's called in the industry "electrification technology," Takeuchi said. With emissions regulations getting stricter around the world, having such technology is crucial. Yokohama-based Nissan makes the world's best-selling electric car Leaf. Its Note, an electric car equipped with a small gas engine to charge its battery, was Japan's No. 1 selling car for the fiscal year through March, the first time in 50 years that a Nissan model beat Toyota and Honda Motor Co. for that title. Nissan is also a leader in autonomous-driving technology, another area all the automakers are trying to innovate. "Although Nissan had no say, its cautionary stance on the merger ended up being very meaningful," Takeuchi said. Nissan has long resisted pressures from Renault for a full merger, and Japanese media reported that Renault had likely hoped its lobbying power would be boosted, if it had merged with Fiat Chrysler. But the collapse of the talks with Fiat Chrysler might mean Renault would merely focus even more on a merger with Nissan, the Asahi newspaper said Friday. Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa told reporters late Thursday that he wanted time to find out what the Fiat Chrylser-Renault merger might mean for Nissan, calling it "moving to the next stage." He reiterated his reservations about a full merger with Renault, stressing Nissan must turn its business around first. Fiat Chrysler cited "political conditions in France" for withdrawing its offer to Renault. The French government said it had placed four conditions on the deal, and getting support from Nissan was the condition that wasn't met. The other conditions were to preserve French jobs and factories, respect the governance balance between Renault and Fiat Chrysler, and ensure participation in an electric battery initiative with Germany. Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader in Detroit, acknowledged the proposed giant alliance had been complex. "No one ever expected it to be a cake walk to negotiate or execute," she said. "The only surprise is that it ended so soon."
BEIJING – Nissan is optimistic about partnering with a combined Renault and Fiat Chrysler (FCA), as long as it can protect the ownership of technology developed over two decades of working with Renault, a senior executive told Reuters.
The executive, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said he was cautiously optimistic about the possibility of generating "synergies" by sharing Nissan's autonomous drive know-how, electrification and greenhouse-gas-scrubbing technologies for powertrains.
TOKYO — Nissan's advanced technologies including platforms and electric powertrains could give it leverage in a merger involving Renault and Fiat Chrysler, thanks to a royalty system it has with the former, two people with knowledge of the matter said. A merged Renault-Fiat Chrysler could face an extra hurdle each time it uses technology developed by Nissan or Mitsubishi Motors, while the two Japanese automakers stand to gain a client in Fiat Chrysler (FCA), one of the people said. Both sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. Nissan's technology, particularly in electrification and emissions reduction, could give it some sway in the $35 billion potential tie-up between Renault and FCA, even as its stake in the newly formed company would be diluted. Currently Renault SA pays less for technology developed by Nissan than the Japanese automaker pays for French technology, a third person said. This has long been a sticking point for Nissan, and an area where Nissan could seek more favorable terms. "Whenever Nissan transfers platform, powertrain or other technology to Renault, there is a margin or royalty which Renault has to pay for use of that tech," one of the people said. "In that sense, FCA, if everything went well, would become another 'client' of ours and that's good. More business for us." A Nissan spokesman declined to comment on its royalty system. The potential Renault-FCA deal has complicated the Japanese automaker's already uneasy alliance with Renault. A further deal with Fiat Chrysler looks likely at least in the near term to weaken Nissan's influence in the 20-year-old partnership. Renault owns a 43.4% stake in Nissan and is its top shareholder. Nissan holds a 15% non-voting stake in Renault and would see that diluted to 7.5% after the FCA deal, albeit with voting rights. The imbalance between the two has long rankled Nissan, which is by far the larger company.
PARIS — France will seek protection of local jobs and other guarantees in exchange for supporting a merger between carmakers Renault and Fiat Chrysler, its finance minister said on Tuesday, underscoring the challenges facing the plan. Separately, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard arrived in Japan to discuss the proposed tie-up with the French company's existing partner Nissan — another potential obstacle to the $35 billion-plus merger of equals. Renault and Italian-American rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are in talks to tackle the costs of far-reaching technological and regulatory changes by creating the world's third-biggest automaker. Shares in both companies jumped on Monday on news of a deal that would create an industry No.3 behind Japan's Toyota and Germany's Volkswagen and target 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) a year in savings. Renault shares were up 1.3 percent by 1030 GMT, extending gains from Monday when the stock had closed up 12 percent. Fiat shares were flat in Milan but the U.S. listed stock was indicated 8 percent higher after a public holiday on Monday. Analysts caution the companies face a challenge to win over powerful stakeholders ranging from the French and Italian governments, to trade unions and Nissan. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio on Tuesday the plan was a good opportunity for both Renault and the European car industry, which has been struggling for years with over-capacity and subdued demand. But he added the French government would seek four guarantees in exchange for backing a deal that would see its 15% stake in Renault reduced to 7.5% of the combined entity.