Crisis-hit Nissan shakes up board, keeps boss

The firm has been crippled by the reputational damage caused by the legal woes of former chairman Ghosn. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 May 2019
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Crisis-hit Nissan shakes up board, keeps boss

  • The firm will propose to shareholders a new board structure with 11 members, six of whom will be external
  • The shake up comes in the wake of former chairman Ghosn’s arrest for alleged financial misconduct

TOKYO: Japanese car giant Nissan shook up its executive board Friday, adding a top director from partner Renault as it battles the fallout from the Carlos Ghosn saga and disappointing results.
The firm will propose to shareholders a new board structure with 11 members, six of whom will be external, as Nissan attempts to improve corporate governance in the wake of former chairman Ghosn’s arrest for alleged financial misconduct.
“With the lessons from the recent executive misconduct still fresh, Nissan resolves to rigorously pursue separation of supervisory and executive functions,” said the firm.
Renault chief executive Thierry Bollore will join his colleague from the French firm, chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on the board, with the two partner firms are at odds on how close their ties should be.
The appointment appears intended to calm tensions between the firms.
A source close to the matter said Bollore’s appointment was a major concession from Nissan toward Renault “given that Nissan’s management has very little confidence” in the French executive.
Bollore stood by Ghosn for a long time after his arrest, sparking anger at Nissan, whose internal investigation brought down its former boss.
Another source said Senard “had pushed for this appointment but the Japanese refused at the beginning.”
Senard has already been sitting on the Nissan board since he was elected to replace Ghosn at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in April.
“For Renault, it’s about having someone on the board, next to Senard, who knows the story, a heavyweight who will share Senard’s views,” said the second source.
Nissan boss Hiroto Saikawa will keep his job despite mounting pressure on him to step down after a set of disastrous results, with net profits expected to plunge to a decade-low in the coming year.
Several shareholders have called for Saikawa to be sacked before his term comes up for renewal in June but the former Ghosn protege has insisted he wants to stay on and guide the reforms he hopes will return Nissan to profitability.
The firm has been crippled by the reputational damage caused by the legal woes of former chairman Ghosn, who faces four formal charges of financial misconduct. He denies any wrongdoing.
But analysts point to several problems for Nissan beyond Ghosn, including apparently declining relations with its French partner Renault and a dearth of new products.
“At this time of radical transformation in the automotive industry, Nissan urgently needs to establish a highly effective governance structure to enhance business capabilities and achieve sustainable corporate value,” the company said in its statement.
Saikawa has brushed off calls for his resignation, saying he wanted to launch a fresh start for the firm and would discuss the timing of his stepping down “at the appropriate time.”
Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors make up an unusual three-way alliance that has grown to become the top-selling car group.
Ghosn was the driving force between bringing the firms together and has since alleged that Nissan launched an investigation into him over fears he was hoping to merge the Japanese and French companies.
Saikawa has admitted “differences of opinion” with Senard on the future make-up of the alliance, including the capital partnership between the two companies.
Renault is pushing toward a merger of the two firms but Nissan executives are more skeptical.


Oil prices rise on gains prompted by tensions between US and Iran

Updated 25 June 2019
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Oil prices rise on gains prompted by tensions between US and Iran

  • Russian energy minister praises international cooperation to stabilize oil markets

LONDON: Oil prices rose on Monday, extending large gains last week that were prompted by tensions between Iran and the US, as Washington was set to announce new sanctions on Tehran.

West Texas Intermediate crude was up 50 cents, or 0.87 percent, at $57.93 a barrel.

Brent futures were up 9 cents, or 0.14 percent at $65.29 a barrel by 1040 GMT.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday he called off a military strike in retaliation for the shooting down of a US drone by Iran, saying the potential death toll would be disproportionate, adding on Sunday that he was not seeking war.

Oil prices surged after Iran shot down the aircraft on Thursday that the US claimed was in international airspace and Tehran said was over its territory.

Brent racked up a gain of about 5 percent last week, its first weekly gain in five weeks, and WTI jumped about 10 percent, its biggest weekly percentage gain since December 2016.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “significant” sanctions on Iran would be announced on Monday aimed at further choking off resources that Tehran uses to fund its activities in the region.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said the UK believed neither the US nor Iran wanted a conflict but warned tensions could lead to an “accidental war.”

Also boosting prices, global supply may remain tight as OPEC and its allies including Russia appear likely to extend their oil cut pact at their meeting July 1-2 in Vienna, analysts said.

“An extension of OPEC+ production cuts through the end of the year seems highly likely given recent price action,” US investment bank Jefferies said in a note.

“The market expects an extension though, and any failure could see oil price gap down. The probabilities favor restraint however,” it added.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Monday said international cooperation on crude production had helped stabilize oil markets and is more important than ever.

“There is a good example of successful cooperation in balancing the oil market between the OPEC countries and non-OPEC. Thanks to joint efforts, we today see a stabilization of world oil markets,” Novak said.

Boosting oil demand, prospects of a near-term interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve aimed at bolstering the US economy have weakened the dollar.

Oil is usually priced in dollars, and a slide in the value of the weaker greenback makes it cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Separately, Iranian crude exports have dropped so far in June to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) or less after the US tightened the screws on Tehran’s main source of income, industry sources said and tanker data showed, deepening global supply losses.

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. Aiming to cut Iran’s sales to zero, Washington in May ended sanctions waivers to importers of Iranian oil.

Iran has nonetheless sent abroad about 300,000 bpd of crude in the first three weeks of June, according to two industry sources who track the flows. Data from Refinitiv Eikon put crude shipments at about 240,000 bpd.

“It’s a very low level of real crude exports,” said one of the sources.

The squeeze on exports from Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is a key factor for the producer group and its allies, which meet on July 1-2 to decide whether to pump more oil in the rest of 2019.

Iran’s June exports are down from about 400,000-500,000 bpd in May as estimated by the industry sources and Refinitiv and a fraction of the more than 2.5 million bpd that Iran shipped in April 2018, the month before President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal.

Iranian exports have become more opaque since US sanctions returned in November, making it harder to assess volumes.

Tehran no longer reports its production figures to OPEC and there is no definitive information on exports since it can be difficult to tell if a vessel has sailed to a specific end-user.

Refinitiv Eikon data showed Iran has exported 5.7 million barrels of crude in the first 24 days of June to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore and Syria, although these may not be the final destinations.

Kpler, another company which tracks oil flows, estimates that Iran loaded 645,000 bpd of crude and condensate, a light oil, onto tankers in the first half of June, of which 82 percent are floating in Gulf waters.

That would put actual crude exports in the first half of the month even lower than 300,000 bpd.

“American restrictions are having a clear effect on Iran’s ability to sell into global markets,” Kpler said.