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REFILE-UPDATE 6-Renault-Nissan, Daimler eye mutual stakes-source
(Refiles to add "he said" to line 51)
* Project-based ties only are still an option-source
* Analyst responses muted
* Companies decline comment
* Nissan stock closes up 1.2 pct, in line with bourse
* Renault stock up 0.8 pct, Daimler edges 0.3 pct higher
(Recasts, adds sources on Renault board meeting)
TOKYO/FRANKFURT, March 26 (Reuters) - A tie-up between Renault-Nissan group and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) to cut costs and share development spend is moving closer, sources said, although analysts remain unconvinced of the benefits.
Car industry alliances have frequently suffered from poor performance, and analysts were subdued about the benefits of a Renault-Nissan-Daimler deal, citing the lack of potential for immediate and quantifiable cost savings.
As a result, the firms' share prices were little moved on Friday. Daimler edged up higher, Renault rose just short of 1 percent versus slight gains among European auto peers .SXAP. Nissan closed 1.2 percent higher at 777 yen on Friday.
Earlier, two sources familiar with the matter said Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, would be willing to take a stake of about 3 percent in Renault SA (RENA.PA) in April in exchange for its own treasury shares.
People close to Renault said the company's board would meet on April 6 to discuss the matter. One source said the French carmaker would take a small stake in Daimler although junk-rated Renault, worth less than a third of its German partner, would have greater difficulty financing it.
One industry source, who asked not to be identified, said all options were still being discussed and everything from Nissan (7201.T) acquiring equity in Daimler to a strictly project-based partnership was on the table.
All three companies declined to comment.
"He's (Renault and Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn) not into living together, he's into getting married. And maybe Daimler is interested in only getting engaged," said CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets analyst Christopher Richter. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
To read a DEALTALK on Daimler, please double click on [ID:nLDE62M0RD] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Hiroaki Osakabe, a fund manager at Chibagin Asset Management, saw little benefit for Nissan amid a project mainly aimed at Daimler and Renault boosting their competitiveness in their core European market.
"Just about the only merit I can see is that it might help make parts procurement less expensive, and maybe open some routes into Europe. But overall the gains for Nissan look rather small, and I think the stock price is reflecting this view," he said.
GRAVEYARD OF FAILURE
Carmakers are on the hunt to cut costs by building scale and spreading the load of heavy investments in new technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles over large numbers of cars.
Renault-Nissan's Ghosn has said he is open to a third partner for the 11-year-old Franco-Japanese alliance, and that an equity deal enabled partners to delve deeper into projects such as joint purchasing and components sharing.
Renault and Daimler have made no secret of being in talks about cooperating to cut costs, pool technology resources and build scale as the crisis-hit industry tries to become more efficient. Both companies have said they were talking with a wide range of makers. [ID:nBMA007149]
Daimler wants to lower development and manufacturing costs for a new Smart four-seater, due towards the end of 2013, by borrowing the underpinnings of Renault's Twingo, while the German automaker could supply large diesel and gasoline engines to Renault and Nissan.
"One nice thing with this alliance is that nobody would be stepping on anybody's toes," CLSA's Richter said, because Mercedes buyers were unlikely to cross-shop against Renault or Nissan cars, and vice-versa.
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and Suzuki (7269.T) made headlines in December as the latest in the industry to seal an equity tie-up, and small cross-shareholdings are not uncommon in the industry.
Suzuki Motor (7269.T) and Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries (7270.T) hold a few percent in each other, while Toyota (7203.T) owns 4 percent of Yamaha Motor (7272.T).
But the auto industry is also replete with capital alliances that have floundered or are yielding few if any synergies -- Daimler itself a prominent example -- and many aggressively seek operational tie-ups without tying up any capital in equity.
Mitsubishi, which has strengthened its partnership with Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA) recently, ended months of speculation earlier in March by deciding to forego buying shares in the French carmaker. (Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris, Elaine Lies in TOKYO, Hendrik Sackmann in STUTTGART, and A.Ananthalakshmi in BANGALORE; Editing by Michael Watson and Simon Jessop)
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