and if it all started with Florange’s Law…

February 2012… Bengal lights, foghorns and revolutionary slogans chanted at the top of their lungs… He was then an ordinary MP marching towards trade unionists determined to oppose the closure of the blast furnaces in Florange, Moselle. Intoxicated by this rebellious atmosphere, he then gets into a truck and addresses the enthusiastic crowd, promising them…

Once François Hollande was elected President of the Republic, he could not prevent the closure of the site, but had the Florange law passed. This is almost the beginning of the problems of Renault and its charismatic boss Carlos Ghosn, and perhaps the origin of the current crisis…

With this text, the state wants, among other things, to encourage shareholders who support companies in the long term. The conditions for holding voting rights are adjusted: each share held for more than two years provides double voting rights.

French capitalist offensive in Renault

Carlos Ghosn sees red! This provision would make it possible to increase the voting rights of the French state in the capital of Renault. With 15% of the capital, he could then double the control over the company, while Nissan, with so many shares, has no voting rights. Carlos Ghosn then proposes that the general meeting of shareholders adopt a resolution that would allow a return to the system of one share equals one vote.

Never mind… Faced with this affront, the French state launched a spectacular capitalist offensive to impose its views on the former Régie. On 22 April 2015, the State Participation Agency (APE) announced that it had increased its stake in Renault to 20%.

“This operation signifies both the will of the State to defend its interests as a shareholder by considering the introduction of dual voting rights in the management of Renault, and the strategic nature it attaches to its participation in the capital of this large industrial enterprise. company”, APE justifies in a press release.

Carlos Ghosn flies to Japan immediately

Astonishment reigns at the headquarters of the Renault-Nissan Alliance… Carlos Ghosn immediately flies to Tokyo, where he holds a crisis meeting of Nissan’s board of directors. On April 23, he published a press release and incredibly opposed the initiative and State sovereign foreigner. The matter is serious. Nissan has so far put up with the alliance that brought it out of near-bankruptcy in 1999. However, Japanese society remains committed to its independence and categorically rejects the idea of ​​being controlled. State foreign in representation seems to confirm the muscular penetration of France.

Nissan then threatens to prevent the Alliance just as Carlos Ghosn wants to accelerate. Analysts then concluded that the potential for synergies was insufficient and expected the two groups to accelerate: not under these conditions, replied Nissan executives.

After returning to Paris, Carlos Ghosn then responded with essentially the same refrain from then-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron as his predecessors: “Take control of Nissan and unite!” The industrialist resists this, saying that such an option would lead to failure, as the recent history of the French manufacturer has shown.

Nissan, convinced that France has a secret agenda to take control, is determined not to back down and demands a new alliance contract. Negotiations will be difficult and stormy for six months. Emmanuel Macron will not hide his exasperation with Carlos Ghosn by publicly stating that he is “The CEO, not the shareholder”.

Renault almost fell in the mouth

In the end, the three parties (the state, Renault and Nissan) came to an agreement. At the time, the government claimed that it had saved the essentials, namely that the status quo capital plan very favorable to Renault and its dual voting rights. In exchange, Nissan gets the neutralization of French ambitions in its internal management. He will no longer have a say in appointing board members and will not be able to push through resolutions not previously approved by Nissan. In other words, Renault with 44% of Nissan’s capital is almost muzzled… But it’s not over…

A year later, Carlos Ghosn left his position as CEO of Nissan to Hiroto Saikawa, a promise made to the Japanese manufacturer, which is very interested in regaining the “Japaneseness” in its management. Originally, the French-Lebanese-Brazilian wanted to appoint an American to this position, precisely to break this nationalist logic.

He asked Gallery, independent analyst Bertrand Rakoto believes that Japanese mistrust preceded this episode. “It’s a political game, the Japanese saw Ghosn as more committed to the French cause than the Japanese,” explains this Detroit-based auto industry insider.

The French state, which is interested in keeping Renault, has long and clumsily tried to keep the Alliance.

“France has allowed itself to be convinced that without Carlos Ghosn there would be no Alliance. Today, this is one of the reasons why it refuses to declare Carlos Ghosn’s battle lost,” notes the analyst, before noting that “the French state really no longer has Today it will have difficulty advancing its arguments in a stalemate where Nissan weighs twice as much as Renault.”

According to Bertrand Rakot, the role of the French state was not optimal for the proper functioning of the Alliance.

“The political interests of the country are often toxic to a society subject to the laws of the market,” he says.

Takeover of Mitsubishi under Renault’s nose

And let’s recall another episode after Florange’s Law: the takeover of Mitsubishi by Nissan, which contributed to shifting the center of gravity of the Alliance a little further towards Japan. “Carlos Ghosn and Nissan take over Mitsubishi without Renault’s official approval,” emphasizes Bertrand Rakoto.

So did the state deepen Franco-Japanese mistrust? Did he force Carlos Ghosn to choose his side and force him to swallow snakes about Renault’s prerogatives as a Nissan shareholder? It is impossible to know under what conditions the file compiled by the Japanese manufacturer that led to the arrest of Carlos Ghosn is a conspiracy, or whether it pays for this rivalry between Nissan and the French state, of which it has become a stronghold.

In any case, his “obstacle” remains a real blow to Renault and has thrown the French state into inherent embarrassment… The role of the latter in the Alliance will necessarily be questioned, as well as Carlos Ghosn, who could not prevent it. result…

Leave a Comment