Is Renault a Useful Business Partner?

When Fiat-Chrysler offered a merger deal with Renault, Renault’s subordinated partner, Nissan, expressed reluctance unless its subordination to Renault could be revised upward at least somewhat so that it could have a greater voice in the resultant combined company.

Note, though, that the French government is a major shareholder of Renault, and the government has a virtually controlling number of seats on the Renault board: Nissan was—and is, given subsequent events—subordinate to the French government as much as it is to its nominal business…senior partner.

The French government interfered with the offer, and it dithered and stalled, and finally Fiat-Chrysler lost patience and withdrew its offer.

Any possibility of the offer being revived (Nissan’s reluctance was not a block) has been dashed, though, by the French government’s effective refusal to discuss Nissan’s future role.

President Emmanuel Macron urged the French car maker to focus on generating cost savings with its partner Nissan Motor Co, rather than reshaping their 20-year alliance.

As he arrived in Japan for the G-20 discussions—conveniently local to Nissan—Macron flat refused to discuss the matter.

Mr Macron told reporters in Tokyo, where he is on an official state visit ahead of the G-20 summit, that discussing the shareholdings was “off topic.”
“We need to focus less on politics, less on finance, and more on industry,” he said.

That’s the flimsiest of excuses.  Its implication that Macron is unable to do two things in the same time frame is an insult to our intelligence.

Is Renault a useful business partner?  It may well be from a business perspective.  The heads of Fiat-Chrysler certainly thought it could be, and the heads of Nissan plainly were willing to consider the matter seriously.

However, from a political perspective, as long as the French government is involved with Renault in any way other than as a customer, Renault has no possibility of being anyone’s useful business partner.  The government-run company just isn’t worth the trouble.

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