Nissan, Renault temper powers of chairman in wake of Ghosn’s ouster

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s request to attend Nissan’s board meeting was denied a Tokyo court. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2019

Nissan, Renault temper powers of chairman in wake of Ghosn’s ouster

  • Renault has started its own review of payments to Carlos Ghosn
  • French prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into how he financed his 2016 wedding

YOKOHAMA, Japan: Japan’s Nissan Motor and France’s Renault said they would retool the world’s top car-making alliance to put themselves on more equal footing, breaking up the all-powerful chairmanship previously wielded by ousted boss Carlos Ghosn.

The removal of Ghosn, credited for rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy in 1999, had caused much uncertainty about the future of the alliance and some speculation the partnership could even unravel.

The companies, together with junior ally Mitsubishi Motors, on Tuesday said the chairman of Renault would serve as the head of the alliance but — in a critical sign of the rebalancing — not as chairman of Nissan.

Nissan has said that Ghosn wielded too much power, creating a lack of oversight and corporate governance. It was not clear who would become Nissan’s chairman, vacant since Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November.

But the automakers gave no indication of any immediate change in their cross-shareholding agreement, one which has given smaller Renault more sway over Nissan.

The so-called Restated Alliance Master Agreement that has bound them together so far remains intact, they said.

“We are fostering a new start of the alliance. There is nothing to do with the shareholdings and the cross-shareholdings that are still there and still in place,” Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said at a news conference.

“Our future lies in the efficiency of this alliance,” he told reporters at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama.

Senard also said he would not seek to be chairman of Nissan, but instead was a “natural candidate” to be vice-chairman.

Former Nissan chairman Ghosn was released on a $9 million bail last week after spending more than 100 days in a Tokyo detention center. He faces charges of under-reporting his salary at the Japanese automaker by about $82 million over nearly a decade — charges he has called “meritless.”

Ghosn, who has not spoken to media since his release, put in a request with a Tokyo court on Monday to attend Nissan’s board meeting the next day, but he was not given permission.

Under the terms of his bail, he would have needed the court’s nod to attend.

Ghosn will not hold a highly anticipated news conference until next week at the earliest and is not planning to attend Nissan’s shareholder meeting next month, his lawyer said.

“Mr. Ghosn wants to have some time to mull over what he’s going to say,” Junichiro Hironaka told reporters outside his Tokyo office after meeting with Ghosn throughout the day.

Ghosn left his lawyer’s office in the evening without taking questions from reporters.

In the wake of the scandal, Renault has started its own review of payments to Ghosn. French prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into how he financed his 2016 wedding at the Chateau de Versailles, French media have reported.

His dramatic arrest and the detention exposed tensions between Nissan and top shareholder Renault, complicating the outlook for a partnership that is the world’s largest maker of automobiles, excluding heavy trucks.

Some at Nissan had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a deeper tie-up with Renault, which was seen as possibly including a full merger. Smaller Renault bought 43 percent of Nissan ahead of the 1999 rescue.

Nissan holds a 15 percent, non-voting stake in Renault, whose top shareholder is the French government.


Africa development bank says risks to continent’s growth ‘increasing by the day’

Updated 18 August 2019

Africa development bank says risks to continent’s growth ‘increasing by the day’

  • The trade dispute between US and China has roiled global markets and unnerved investors
  • African nations need to boost trade with each other to cushion the impact of external shocks

DAR ES SALAAM: The US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit pose risks to Africa’s economic prospects that are “increasing by the day,” the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) told Reuters.
The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies has roiled global markets and unnerved investors as it stretches into its second year with no end in sight.
Britain, meanwhile, appears to be on course to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without a transition deal, which economists fear could severely disrupt trade flows.
Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB, said the bank could review its economic growth projection for Africa — of 4 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020 — if global external shocks accelerate.
“We normally revise this depending on global external shocks that could slowdown global growth and these issues are increasing by the day,” Adesina told Reuters late on Saturday on the sidelines of the Southern African Development Community meeting in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
“You have Brexit, you also have the recent challenges between Pakistan and India that have flared off there, plus you have the trade war between the United States and China. All these things can combine to slow global growth, with implications for African countries.”
The bank chief said African nations need to boost trade with each other and add value to agricultural produce to cushion the impact of external shocks.
“I think the trade war has significantly impacted economic growth prospects in China and therefore import demand from China has fallen significantly and so demand for products and raw materials from Africa will only fall even further,” he said.
“It will also have another effect with regard to China’s own outward-bound investments on the continent,” he added, saying these could also affect official development assistance.
Adesina said a continental free-trade zone launched last month, the African Continental Free Trade Area, could help speed up economic growth and development, but African nations needed to remove non-tariff barriers to boost trade.
“The countries that have always been facing lower volatilities have always been the ones that do a lot more in terms of regional trade and do not rely on exports of raw materials,” Adesina said.
“The challenges cannot be solved unless all the barriers come down. Free mobility of labor, free mobility of capital and free mobility of people.”