December 17, 2018 / 3:23 AM / a month ago

Renault seeks Nissan shareholder meeting as Ghosn crisis deepens

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault requested a full Nissan shareholder meeting, a source close to the company said - appearing to escalate the carmaker’s standoff with its Japanese alliance partner in the wake of the pay scandal engulfing Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan Motor Co Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn speaks during an interview with Reuters at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files

Thierry Bollore, the French group’s deputy CEO, issued the demand in a Dec. 14 letter to Nissan, the source said on Sunday, confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal.

“We respectfully ask that the board consider calling an extraordinary general meeting of Nissan shareholders as promptly as practicable,” Bollore wrote in the letter.

A Renault spokesman declined to comment.

Ghosn’s arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct has shaken the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, with Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa calling for changes to weaken Renault’s control.

Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, whose reciprocal 15 percent stake in its French parent carries no voting rights. Nissan in turn controls Mitsubishi via a 34 percent holding.

The call for a shareholder meeting will likely be seen as an attempted show of force by Renault’s interim management, led by Bollore and Mouna Sepehri, Ghosn’s long-standing chief of staff who also heads legal affairs and communications.

The letter made no mention of using the shareholder meeting to hire or fire Nissan board members but remained vague about its purpose, saying only that it would “allow for appropriate disclosure and discussion of governance and other matters”.

It added that the indictment of Nissan “creates significant risks to Renault, as Nissan’s largest shareholder, and to the stability of our industrial alliance”.

At a Dec. 13 Renault board meeting, directors were briefed on the Nissan investigation that led to Ghosn’s arrest. He was charged alongside Nissan this week over the company’s failure to declare $43 million in deferred income he had arranged to receive. He and alleged accomplice Greg Kelly remain in custody.

While Nissan ousted Ghosn days after his arrest, the Renault board reiterated its earlier decision to keep him in office. Directors have yet to be given access to the Nissan findings, which are being closely held by Renault lawyers.

Bollore’s demand for a Nissan shareholder meeting was a “management decision” that was not raised at the previous day’s board session, the company source said, adding that it had been discussed subsequently with “all of the directors”.

Senior director Philippe Lagayette is standing in as chairman. The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, is backing Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard to replace Ghosn permanently as chairman, Le Figaro reported.

Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by David Evans

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