January 17, 2018 / 11:30 AM / 4 months ago

Ghosn lays groundwork for withdrawal as Renault CEO

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault-Nissan (RENA.PA)(7201.T) is to pursue plans to create separate strategy and operations leadership roles, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday in a sign he may pull back as boss of the French carmaker.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Paris, France, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Files

Ghosn, who heads of the Renault-Nissan alliance that also includes Mitsubishi Motors (7211.T), had already stepped back from his CEO role at Nissan last year and sources have said he could do the same at Renault, where his term at the helm runs out in June.

He still serves as chairman of both Renault and Nissan as well as Mitsubishi, controlled by Nissan through a 34 percent stake.

“Regarding corporate governance, you will see changes in terms of separating the responsibilities of those dealing with Renault, with Nissan, with Mitsubishi and with the overall alliance,” Ghosn told a French parliamentary finance commission on Wednesday.

The idea is to avoid having one person managing the three partner companies’ operations and the overall alliance’s strategy at the same time, he added.

“In the past, we had to do that to create the alliance, but I don’t think it’s something that can last,” Ghosn said.

Reuters reported in June that Ghosn was recruiting a new operational second-in-command for the Renault-Nissan carmaking alliance to prepare his own succession and advance the companies’ integration.

French newspaper Les Echos also reported in December that Renault had started interviewing candidates to replace CEO Ghosn when his term expires.

ROADMAP

The alliance became the world’s top carmaking group last year, surpassing German giant Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) for the first time, Ghosn said.

He said the alliance’s more than 10.6 million vehicle sales last year bested Volkswagen’s tally because the German group’s 10.7 million included 200,000 heavy trucks, which Renault-Nissan excludes.

The 63-year-old told the French parliamentary commission that the future for his role at the alliance remains to be defined with the boards of Renault and Nissan.

“Is there a roadmap to which I can contribute or not and with which I agree? If we agree on the roadmap and agree that I have a major contribution, we keep going. If there is no agreement ... then we stop,” he said.

Renault’s main shareholders are the French state and Nissan, which itself is 43.4 percent owned by Renault.

Ghosn said that questions over the French state’s role in Renault was one for the state to answer, but he added that the French government played a key role in the health of the country’s car industry.

Last November the French government began the sale of 4.73 percent of Renault, paring back its holding to the 15 percent level that preceded a 2015 power struggle with Ghosn and removing a residual irritant in their relationship.

    Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Leigh Thomas; Editing by David Goodman

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