Nissan (7201.T) and Renault (RENA.PA) agreed on Monday to a major restructuring of their 20-year-old auto alliance, making them equal partners and with Nissan investing in Renault’s electric vehicle business. The decision was reached after months of discussions complicated by intellectual property sharing concerns, as Renault pursued partnerships outside the alliance, according to sources.
The deal, pending board approvals, will see Renault reducing its stake in Nissan to 15% from 43%, with 28% being transferred to a French trust, according to Renault. This change will bring the two companies to equal partnership, ending the long-standing friction among Nissan executives caused by their unequal relationship. Despite rescuing Nissan two decades ago, Renault is a smaller automaker by sales.
The alliance, which includes junior partner Mitsubishi Motors (7211.T), was severely impacted by the removal of its creator, former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, due to financial misconduct. The new agreement establishes a 15% cross-shareholding, enabling Nissan to exercise its voting rights, which was previously restricted. The cross-shareholding includes a lock-up preventing stock sales for a certain period and a standstill obligation limiting stock buying and selling by a shareholder.
Renault intends to instruct the French trustee to sell the $4.1 billion worth of Nissan shares, if feasible for Renault, through a coordinated and organized process, according to the company. Since the announcement of restructuring negotiations in October, Renault’s shares have risen by nearly 25%, while Nissan’s shares, facing potential stock surplus, have increased only by 3%.
As part of the agreement, Nissan and Renault committed to investing more resources in key projects in Latin America, India, and Europe, covering markets, vehicles, and technologies. Nissan also announced investment in Renault’s battery-electric vehicle unit. The reconfiguration of the Franco-Japanese alliance impacts both companies and the global auto industry, showcasing how technological disruption in the sector is driving companies to both collaborate and compete with a multitude of new entrants and tech firms.
Renault has announced partnerships with Geely Automobile (0175.HK) from China and semiconductor company Qualcomm (QCOM.O). The French automaker is also working to finalize a deal with Geely and bring in Aramco (2222.SE) as an investor and partner for developing gasoline engines and hybrid technologies.