Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

Jose Munoz, who was the automaker’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, had been a ‘person of interest’ in Nissan’s widening internal investigation. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

  • In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had ‘elected to resign’ from the company, effective immediately
  • The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault

TOKYO: One of Nissan’s top executives has resigned, further rattling the Japanese automaker’s management team as it broadens an investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.
Jose Munoz, widely considered as a close ally to Ghosn and a possible successor to lead the automaking partnership between Nissan and France’s Renault, had been a “person of interest” in Nissan’s widening internal investigation.
The 53-year-old, who was Nissan’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on Friday. In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had “elected to resign” from the company, effective immediately. It declined to offer details.
He becomes the latest executive casualty since Nissan in November removed Ghosn as chairman and fired representative director Greg Kelly.
The resignation deals another blow to the Japanese automaker, which is grappling with the scandal at a time when it is struggling to shore up profitability in the US and expand aggressively in China.
Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the US by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018.
“Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus,” Munoz said in his post.
“As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.”
People with knowledge of the issue have said that Munoz, who had been placed on a leave of absence earlier in the month, had not been co-operating with the internal investigation.
Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with Renault, remains in custody in a Tokyo detention center since his initial arrest in late November.
Ghosn has been indicted on two counts of under-reporting his income, and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily shifting personal investment losses worth ¥1.85 billion ($17 million) to Nissan.
The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault, where Ghosn remains CEO and chairman.
Munoz joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its significant expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the US and posted record sales.
Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years.
Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.


Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

Updated 23 January 2019
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Time to tear down Mideast trade barriers, Davos panel hears

  • Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border could be followed elsewhere
  • Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani: Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade

DAVOS: Amid global trade wars and the rise of protectionism, Middle East economic and business leaders on Tuesday issued a clarion call for the exact opposite: To ease customs restrictions in the region.
A panel at Davos heard how an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the UAE to boost cooperation — including the reduction of obstacles to trade across the shared border — could be a blueprint for the wider region.
Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning, said a move to ease movement of traffic across the border — partly through the use of technology — could be followed elsewhere. “We want to establish a reference for others to follow,” he said.
Alain Bejjani, CEO of retail and leisure group Majid Al Futtaim, said “frictionless trade” would give the region a boost.
“Now there’s this seriousness between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I hope it gets to frictionless trade,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of the Davos forum.
Bejjani declined to say whether that would involve a customs union, a common market or a common currency. Given the imposition of trade tariffs between the US and China, and the rise of Brexit, globalization — something espoused by many Davos delegates — is seen as on the wane.
But Bejjani said breaking down barriers in the Middle East could help it better compete with Western Europe and the US.
“For the past almost century now… we’ve been ingeniously working on making sure we put barriers across the Arab world. The reality is we have a market that’s as big as most of the largest markets in the world… if we’re smart enough to work together,” he told the Davos panel.
Khalid Al-Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, agreed that Saudi-UAE cooperation was “a great template” for others to follow.
Aside from “opening up” Middle East markets, Al-Rumaihi said harmonizing regulation in the region would also be beneficial to businesses and entrepreneurs.
“If the rules are changing in each country, if they’re not harmonized, it’s very difficult… for an entrepreneur (to understand) the regulatory environment. So they don’t scale very quickly, and that’s something we need to solve,” he said. Talk of freer trade within the Middle East is especially relevant when it comes to the Palestinian territories, which are subject to Israeli occupation and blockade.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said freer movement and a reduction of duties would help the economy grow.
“We need to see our products being waived (of) customs,” he said. “We need mobility — we’re under occupation.”