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Nissan concerned Renault-Fiat Chrysler deal may weaken its clout

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chairman John Elkann has written to the CEOs of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. for a meeting to explain the merger of equals with Renault SA and allay their concerns, the Nikkei Asian Review reported May 31, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

The development follows Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa's May 30 interview with the Nikkei, where he said the merger means "many opportunities for Nissan." However, Saikawa expressed concerns that a fourth player could weaken Nissan's influence in the industrial alliance with Mitsubishi and Renault, which looks favorably at FCA's offer.

The merger would change Nissan's capital relationship with Renault, "which obviously has an impact," Saikawa said. "It is necessary to carefully examine various pieces of information."

Renault owns a 43.4% stake with voting rights in Nissan and is its top shareholder. Nissan holds a 15% nonvoting stake in Renault and would see that diluted to 7.5% after the FCA deal.

Without voting rights, Nissan will have no say in the proposed FCA-Renault merger. But the Japanese carmaker's electrification and emissions reduction technology could give it leverage in the potential deal, Reuters reported, citing two sources. If FCA joins the alliance, the royalty system may have to be renegotiated, the sources told Reuters.

"In that sense, FCA, if everything went well, would become another 'client' of ours and that's good. More business for us," they said.

Nissan executives have resented having no voting rights in Renault and have been seeking a more equitable partnership with the French partner, according to the report.

In an interview with the Nikkei, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard addressed the issues by saying the merger deal with FCA will enable Nissan to gain voting rights in Renault.

Senard met Saikawa and Mitsubishi Chairman and CEO Osamu Masuko May 29 in Yokohama, where Senard outlined his views on the merger, the Nikkei said.

FCA declined S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment, while Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.