Nissan, Renault in talks to merge as one company

The idea is to get bigger to compete in a fast-changing industry

Nissan and Renault have been tied together as an alliance for nearly 20 years, but now the Japanese and French automakers are discussing whether to merge. Bloomberg, citing unidentified sources familiar with the confidential talks, reports that the idea is to form a larger, single publicly traded company to better compete against giants like Toyota and Volkswagen.

It would also mark the end of the alliance that first began in 1999 and also includes Mitsubishi, in which Nissan acquired a controlling interest in 2016. A full merger would help the companies pool resources to develop electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and car-sharing services. It would involve Nissan giving Renault shareholders stock in the new company, with Nissan shareholders also gaining shares in the new company, Bloomberg reports. The new company would be run by Carlos Ghosn, the current chairman of both companies.

But any such merger, as you might expect, would be complicated, in part by geopolitics. The French government owns a 15-percent stake in Renault, and both the French and Japanese governments might be reluctant to let go of their respective home-grown brands. Currently, Renault owns a 43-percent stake in Nissan, while Nissan owns 15 percent of its French partner. Reuters reported recently that Ghosn proposed buying most of the French government's stake in Renault as part of plans for a closer tie-up.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance already has been working to establish a $200 million mobility tech fund to invest in startups, a reflection of how seismic changes in the auto industry have left many legacy companies scrambling to stay current. Nissan in 2016 paid a reported $2.3 billion to acquire 34 percent of Mitsubishi in order to share platforms, technology, manufacturing and other resources.

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