Renault keeps Ghosn as CEO despite arrest in Japan

‘Mr. Carlos Ghosn, temporarily incapacitated, remains chairman and chief executive officer,’ a statement from Renault’s board said. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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Renault keeps Ghosn as CEO despite arrest in Japan

  • Renault’s board said its decision was made with an eye toward keeping the company on a steady course
  • Renault and Nissan have a partnership with smaller automaker Mitsubishi Motor Corp

TOKYO: France’s Renault says it has decided to keep its CEO Carlos Ghosn on despite his arrest in Japan on allegations that he misused assets of partner Nissan Motor Co. and misreported his income.
Renault’s board of directors announced late Tuesday that the No. 2 at the company, Chief Operating Officer Thierry Bollore, would temporarily fill in for Ghosn.
“Mr. Ghosn, temporarily incapacitated, remains chairman and chief executive officer,” a statement from Renault’s board said. But while Ghosn deals with his legal issues in Japan, Bollore will have the same authority to run the company as the CEO, it added.
Renault’s board said its decision was made with an eye toward keeping the company on a steady course “to preserve the interests of the group and the continuity of its operations.”
Ghosn runs Renault, Nissan and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance that he helped turn into the world’s biggest car-seller last year, and both France and Japan want to keep it intact.
Renault’s move to appoint a temporary leader was in line with a demand by the French government, which owns a 15 percent stake in the automaker. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had said earlier Tuesday that Ghosn was not in position to lead the Renault Group while fighting the accusations in Japan.
The French automaker said after an emergency meeting of its board of directors in Paris that it would further consolidate its alliance with Nissan. The two automakers have a partnership, also, with smaller automaker Mitsubishi Motor Corp.
Asked about reports that Nissan and Renault had been on the verge of merging, Nissan’s CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters Wednesday that he had not heard of such a plan.
There was no update Wednesday in Tokyo from prosecutors on Ghosn’s case, and no public word from Ghosn himself. It was unclear where he was being held following his arrest on Monday.
Nissan’s board of directors is due to meet Thursday and expected to approve a proposal to dismiss both Ghosn as its chairman and another executive, representative director Greg Kelly, who is alleged to have collaborated with his boss in falsifying financial reports.
Earlier this year, Ghosn signed a contract that would have run through 2022.
Renault’s board, meanwhile, said it is requesting that Nissan pass along details of its investigation into Ghosn’s alleged wrongdoing. Le Maire said authorities have examined Ghosn’s tax situation in France but have found no wrongdoing.
Japanese prosecutors said they were holding Ghosn, 64, for allegedly collaborating to falsify securities statements and underreporting $44.6 million in income from 2011 to 2015.
Bollore, a member of Renault’s executive committee, joined Renault in September 2012 and was named chief operating officer only last February. He has a long career with both tiremaker Michelin and auto parts company Faurecia, spending time in Asia with each.
Of French, Brazilian and Lebanese background, Ghosn is a towering corporate figure in France, where Renault is one of the heavyweight industrial survivors.
He is more controversial in Japan, where top foreign executives are rare and even the biggest corporate bigwigs tend to keep a low profile.
Ghosn is admired for driving a turnaround at Nissan when it was near bankruptcy and for his foresight in pushing to bring electric and autonomous cars to the masses.
But in a 90-minute news conference late Monday night, Saikawa, the Nissan CEO, said his boss had too much power and the company was overdue for some change.


To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

Updated 17 February 2019
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To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

  • Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups
  • Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector

BAGHDAD: Stuck between an endless waitlist for a government job and a frail private sector, Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups.
The first murmurs of this creative spirit were felt in 2013, but the Daesh group’s sweep across a third of the country the following year put many projects on hold.
Now, with Daesh defeated, co-working spaces and incubators are flourishing in a country whose unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent but whose public sector is too bloated to hire.
Many self-starters begin their journey at an aptly named glass building in central Baghdad: The Station.
There, they sip on coffee, peruse floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for ideas and grab a seat at clusters of desks where other stylish Iraqis click away at their laptops.
“We’re trying to create a new generation with a different state of mind,” said executive director Haidar Hamzoz.
“We want to tell youth that they can start their own project, achieve their dreams and not just be happy in a government job they didn’t even want,” he said.
Youth make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million people.
After graduating from university, many spend years waiting to be appointed to a job in the government, Iraq’s biggest employer.
Four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years are in the public sector, according to the World Bank.
And in its 2019 budget, the government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
But with graduates entering the workforce faster than jobs are created, many still wait indefinitely for work.
Among youth, 17 percent of men and a whopping 27 percent of women are unemployed, the World Bank says.
When Daesh declared Mosul its seat of power in Iraq back in 2014, resident Saleh Mahmud was forced to shutter the city’s incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.
With Mosul now cautiously rebuilding after the militants were ousted in 2017, Mahmud is back in business.
“Around 600-700 youth have already passed by Mosul Space” to attend a seminar or seek out resources as they start their own ventures, said the 23-year-old.
He was inspired after watching fellow Mosul University graduates hopelessly “try to hunt down a connection to get a job in the public sphere.”
“A university education isn’t something that gets you a fulfilling job,” he said.
Another start-up, Dakkakena, is capitalizing on Mosul’s rebuilding spirit, too.
The online shopping service delivers a lorry-full of home goods every day to at least a dozen families refurnishing after the war.
“On the web, we can sell things for cheaper than stores because we have fewer costs, like no showrooms,” said founder Yussef Al-Noaime, 27.
Noaime fled Daesh to the Netherlands, where he was introduced to e-commerce. When he returned home, the computer engineer partnered with another local to found their venture.
A similar service, Miswag, was set-up in the capital Baghdad in 2014 and last year reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
On an autumn day, some 70 young Iraqi innovators converged for a three-day workshop in Baghdad on founding start-ups.
They flitted among round tables planning projects, their Arabic conversations sprinkled with English terms.
“What we’re doing is showing youth what entrepreneurship is — not necessarily so they succeed, but so they at least try,” said organizer Ibrahim Al-Zarari.
He said attendees should understand two things: first, that the public sector is saturated. And second, that oil isn’t the only resource on which Iraq — OPEC’s second-largest producer — should capitalize.
More than 65 percent of Iraq’s GDP and nearly 90 percent of state revenues hail from the oil sector. Many youths turn to it for work, but it only employs one percent of the workforce.
Widespread corruption and bureaucracy also weaken Iraq’s appeal for private investors. The World Bank ranks it 168th out of 190 for states with a good business environment.
Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector.
And Iraq’s stuttering banking industry appears too cautious to dive in, said Tamara Raad, 26, who researches start-ups.
“The banks have a role to play. They must make loans without interest and help young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Banks or no banks, Mahmud in Mosul is already planning how he’ll grow his business in 2019.
“We will open a new, larger space for new gatherings,” he said excitedly, to bring together returning designers, developers and other inventors.