What went wrong? Analysis of GM/Renault-Nissan talks

UPDATE: They Speak! Official release addressing dissolution of talks after jump.

We're now awaiting official word from Renault (it came, see after jump) concerning the break off of talks between the automaker, its alliance partner Nissan, and General Motors. While we're waiting, we thought you'd be interested in a few more details that are perhaps pertinent to figuring out why these three-month long exploratory talks ended abruptly with less than two weeks to go.

The WSJ reports that GM chief Rick Wagoner and head of Nissan and Renault Carlos Ghosen spoke on the phone this morning and agreed the two sides were not seeing eye-to-eye on the value of an alliance. GM basically put the question to the other side, "What's it worth to you?"

The largest single sticking point seems to be GM's demand that Nissan-Renault pay a "control premium" if it purchased 20-percent of the General's stock. GM believed that since Renault-Nissan would make out like a bandit if such an alliance were to happen, that the Franco-Japanese automaker should make a lump payment to GM to make up the difference and equalize everyone's interests. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement on how much additional coin Renault-Nissan should cough up for the pleasure of doing business with GM, so that's when the party ended.

Yesterday GM gave us a big indication that the alliance wouldn't happen when the board of directors made amendments to the company's bylaws that will make it difficult for a single shareholder to rally other shareholders and influence management. That's exactly what billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian did to start this whole GM/Renault-Nissan business, and yesterday the board made it so that such a move by a single share holder would be much more difficult in the future. Clearly GM management did not appreciate being manhandled into this situation, which probably spelled its doom from the get-go.

In the end, this whole business seems to have turned out to be a big waste of time. Though Mr. Kerkorian believed he was acting in the best interest of the company in which he owns a 9.9-percent stake, perhaps he should sit down now and let the real auto executives do their jobs. GM is beginning to finally show signs of life and distractions are the last thing its management needs.

[Source: WSJ, Detroit News, Reuters]

Press Release:

General Motors, Renault And Nissan Terminate Alliance Discussions


General Motors, Renault and Nissan said today that they had agreed to terminate discussions regarding a proposed alliance among the three companies.

The parties mutually recognized that significant aggregate synergies might result from the alliance. However the parties did not agree on either the total amount of aggregate synergies or the distribution of those benefits.

Based on its conclusions, GM had proposed that Renault-Nissan provide compensation as part of a potential alliance and for potentially precluding GM from entering other alliance opportunities if Renault-Nissan had made a significant investment in GM.

Renault and Nissan consider that the principle of compensation is contrary to the spirit of any successful alliance.

Share This Photo X