TOKYO — Renault SA will propose to Nissan Motor Co a plan to create a joint holding company that would give both firms equal footing as the French automaker seeks further integration with its Japanese partner, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday.
Under the proposal, both firms would nominate a nearly equal number of directors to the new company in which ordinary shares in both Nissan and Renault would be transferred on a balanced basis, the newspaper said, without citing sources.
This would effectively dilute the stake held by the French government in Renault to around 7-8 percent, from its current 15 percent, it added. The new company would be headquartered in a third country, such as Singapore.
Renault plans to make the proposal to Nissan soon, the Nikkei said, having modified an earlier merger idea that Nissan rejected on April 12.
Nissan declined to comment on the issue. The Financial Times newspaper reported that both Nissan and the Japanese government have refused to engage in merger talks with Renault.
The report of the proposal comes as the outlook for the alliance — one of the world's top automaking partnerships — has clouded since the arrest in November of its main architect, Carlos Ghosn, for suspected financial misconduct.
It also comes as Nissan's financial performance struggles following years of focusing on volume sales over building its brand, particularly in the United States, its biggest market.
Nissan slashes its forecast
This week, the Japanese automaker slashed its profit forecast for the year just ended to its lowest in nearly a decade, citing weakness in its U.S. operations.
Renault for years has been vying for a closer merger with Nissan, which it rescued from the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago. Ghosn had been working to achieve a deeper integration before his arrest on financial misconduct charges in November last year.
While the automakers have been consolidating many of their operations over the past decade, including procurement and production, many executives at Nissan have opposed an all-out merger with Renault.
Instead, Nissan has argued for a more equal footing with Renault, which holds a 43 percent stake in its bigger partner. Nissan holds a 15 percent stake in Renault.
It was unclear whether Renault would hold the casting vote in major decisions at the new company, as it did in Renault-Nissan B.V., a strategic management company jointly held by both companies that oversaw operations for the partnership.
That company was disbanded last month after an internal investigation by Nissan following Ghosn's arrest indicated that the company may have been involved with financial misconduct by the former chairman.
Nissan's partnership with Mitsubishi Motors Corp, in which it holds a 34 percent stake, would remain unchanged under the new proposal, the Nikkei said.