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Macron rules out changing French stake in Renault-Nissan

French government has 15% stake in Renault; Nissan also has 15%, but with no voting rights

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Mr Macron said: "The shareholding structure is part of history. We are not going to review it now."

Paris

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron said "nothing justifies" changing the cross-shareholding structure between Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co, underscoring the difficulty the Japanese carmaker has had in its efforts to reduce its partner's influence over their global car alliance.

"Nothing in this situation justifies that we change the rule of governance or the shareholdings," he told reporters in Tokyo. "Let's stop creating instability."

The French state is Renault's most powerful shareholder and its presence on the board has long created friction with Nissan, which has pushed for lowering the stake Renault holds in the Japanese company.

Currently, Renault owns 43 per cent of Nissan with voting rights, and Nissan has 15 per cent in the French company without them.

Their relationship has degenerated into an open struggle for power since the arrest last November of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Mr Macron, who met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of the G-20 summit in Osaka, said in a joint press conference Wednesday Renault and the alliance are solid and the role of the French government, which holds a 15 per cent stake in Renault, is to protect big companies and especially their employees.

The combination, which also includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp, is "a giant and a force that must not only be preserved but developed through synergies and alliances in all their forms to make it stronger in the face of international competition," he added in a speech to the French community in Tokyo.

Fixing the troubled alliance took on new urgency this month following the collapse of merger talks between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

The French carmaker held the discussions behind Nissan's back, and in a last-minute manoeuvre, the government scuppered a planned deal, saying a clear backing by the Japanese firm was missing.

Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who is travelling with Mr Macron, has pushed for a merger with Nissan, which also irked the Japanese company.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said repairing the alliance should be a priority for the carmakers, while Mr Senard has expressed deep disappointment at the collapse of the planned tie-up with Fiat.

Mr Le Maire earlier this month said France was open to eventually reducing its stake in Renault. Yet on Thursday, Mr Macron brushed aside those plans.

"Nothing in this situation justifies that we would change the cross-shareholdings, governance and all the more so the state's stake with Renault - which has nothing to do with Nissan.

"The future of the group is how to become a leader in electric and autonomous cars, and that comes from innovation and investment.

"The future is greater integration of the groups. The shareholding structure is part of history. We are not going to review it now. It has nothing to do with the challenges facing the group." BLOOMBERG