Renault SA is in talks to lower its 43.4% stake in Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. as a way to hopefully resume merger discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 2, citing internal emails and people familiar with the matter.
Fiat Chrysler abandoned the proposed merger in June with immediate effect due to the "political conditions in France."
The termination came after Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa expressed his concern in a Nikkei Asian Review interview that the deal would dilute the Japanese automaker's 15% nonvoting stake in Renault to 7.5%.
Emails reviewed by the Journal reportedly showed that Renault aims to make changes to its shareholding structure in order to address Nissan's concerns.
Discussions between the car companies reportedly began as soon as the proposed merger was dropped, according to the emails and one of the sources.
An email dated July 12 reportedly said the talks may lead to an initial memorandum of understanding as early as September. However, sources cautioned that discussions were at an early stage and one of them added that talks could go on until the end of 2019.
Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO Thierry Bolloré and independent board member Pierre Fleuriot are leading the discussions on the French automaker's side, while Nissan's team involves CEO Hiroto Saikawa, senior executive Hari Nada and independent board member Masakazu Toyoda, the publication reported, citing the email exchanges.
The Journal added that an email from a Nissan lawyer on July 12 showed that Renault asked for a written proposal on how to reshape the alliance structure in a way that would help Nissan "consider that an agreement with FCA would be acceptable." The lawyer sent the email to Nada, who was one of the whistleblowers on the alleged financial misconduct of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.
After discussing Nissan's potential list of demands with Toyoda, Nada reportedly responded that Renault should cut its stake in the Japanese automaker to about 5% to 10%. Toyoda added that Nissan should combine any stake sell-down with the creation of a new joint venture controlled by both Renault and Nissan, "in order to show that despite the capital adjustments the alliance is not dead."
Both Renault and Nissan declined to comment on the matter, and a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler also declined to comment, according to the publication.