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France wants Renault, Nissan under a single holding company: Nikkei

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THE French government is proposing to integrate Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co in a structure that would probably put the two carmakers under a single holding company, Nikkei reported.

A delegation including Martin Vial, a Renault director designated by the French government, visited Japanese officials in Tokyo to discuss the plans, Nikkei reported, without saying where it got the information.

Renault also wants to appoint Nissan's next chairman following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the newspaper said.

The auto titan is accused of financial crimes that could put him behind bars for decades. Ghosn has been indicted for understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars and transferring personal trading losses to the carmaker.

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Nissan claims Ghosn misused company funds, including for homes from Brazil to Lebanon, and hired his sister on an advisory contract.

Two months after the arrest stunned the global automotive industry, the Japanese carmaker is weighing abolishing the chairman role as it steps up reforms to rebuild governance.

The scandal has also strained the company's partnership with Renault, a union held together by Ghosn for two decades. Ghosn was reportedly planning a merger between the two carmakers before his arrest, Nikkei said.

An e-mail sent to Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield went unanswered on Sunday. A spokesman for the French finance minister declined to comment.

Tension has been rising between Nissan and Renault over their respective powers within each other's boardrooms. Through complicated cross shareholdings, Renault owns 43 per cent of Nissan, which in turn owns 15 per cent of the French automaker.

Last month, Renault said it planned to name a new director to the board of Nissan and safeguard power within their alliance.

"Renault wants to exercise the possibility to name its directors and this will be done at a shareholders' meeting," Mr Vial, who is also head of the agency that holds the French government's stake, said in an interview on BFM Business.

Earlier, Nissan chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa rebuffed the French carmaker's demand for a meeting of all shareholders to discuss Nissan's governance, something it would need to do to change its board representation.

Ghosn is also on the verge of being ejected from the roles of chairman and CEO at Renault, with the French finance minister last week calling for his dismissal. BLOOMBERG

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