June 27, 2019 / 3:20 AM / 19 days ago

France's Macron says no need to lower government's stake in Renault

FILE PHOTO - French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Renault factory in Maubeuge, France, November 8, 2018. Etienne Laurent/Pool via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday there was no need for the government to lower its stake in Renault and that he wanted the Renault-Nissan alliance to work on strengthening its synergies.

Relations have been strained between the alliance members since the shock arrest in November of former boss Carlos Ghosn, but Macron referred to that as an individual situation that should not have a bearing on their partnership.

“Nothing in this situation justifies changing the cross shareholdings, the rules of governance, and the state’s shareholding in Renault, which has nothing to do with Nissan,” Macron told reporters.

Macron’s comment contradicts recent remarks by Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire that the government was ready to reduce its 15% stake in Renault in the interest of bolstering the automaker’s alliance with Japan’s Nissan Motor.

“I wish for the group to maintain its stability concentrating on the essential and that synergies between Renault and Nissan continue to be strengthened,” said Macron, who was in Japan on an official state visit ahead of the G20 in Osaka.

“The future of the group is how it can become leader in electric vehicles and one of the leaders in autonomous vehicles … I think the future is more of a growing integration.”

Despite the French government’s frequent calls for Renault and Nissan to strengthen their partnership, Nissan has been unhappy with what it sees as an unequal relationship and has rebuffed previous suggestions of an outright merger.

Renault owns 43% of Nissan which has surpassed its French partner in size since being rescued by it two decades ago. Nissan holds a 15%, non-voting stake in its partner.

Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said at a shareholders’ meeting this week the Japanese automaker would “postpone discussions” on the future direction of the alliance as it prioritized recovery of its financial performance.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gopakumar Warrier

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