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Spain upbeat on finding replacement for departing Nissan, eyes battery plant

3 minute read

BARCELONA, May 7 (Reuters) - Spain is optimistic that an alternative project will be found to save thousands of jobs threatened by Nissan's (7201.T) decision to shut its three plants in the Barcelona area by the end of the year, a government official told Reuters.

A factory to produce electric vehicle battery cells is among 17 proposed projects that have been submitted by 13 companies for the facilities, junior industry minister Raul Blanco said in an interview, without specifying who was behind the battery plan.

Most proposed projects are linked to electric mobility, officials have previously said.

Sweden's Volta Trucks, which produces electric vehicles, is among the few bidders that have publicly announced their interest in the plants, where it could make its Volta Zero. It is part of a consortium of companies that has submitted a bid.

Nissan's factories employ around 3,000 people directly, and up to 20,000 indirectly when taking into account suppliers.

As their closure nears, as part of the Japanese carmaker's global restructuring, unions are growing impatient at what they perceive as a lack of progress in finding alternatives. They have urged authorities to accelerate their efforts and plan a protest on May 13 in Barcelona.

"We are optimistic until the last minute," Blanco said when asked whether a viable alternative project would emerge to save jobs. "We are working tirelessly."

The priority of a task force on the plants' future is to guarantee the maximum number of jobs, he added.

However, Blanco said a planned project by Volkswagen's Spanish brand SEAT and utility Iberdrola (IBE.MC) to build a battery cell factory in Spain would likely be too big to be housed at Nissan's 500,000-square-metre main plant in Barcelona.

The government has backed the plans for such a factory to be built in the country to help reduce reliance on batteries from China, and hopes to build it in a public-private partnership using EU recovery funds. read more

Blanco said the Barcelona site might be more suitable for a smaller battery project from other companies.

Ramon Tremosa, the business chief of Catalonia's government, asked unions for patience, arguing that the plans that have been submitted for the Nissan site showed that the northeastern region remained attractive as an auto sector hub.

Reporting by Joan Faus; Additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Pravin Char

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