Nissan’s Saikawa to stay on as president, Renault chief to join board – sources

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co will keep Hiroto Saikawa on as president, two sources said on Friday, even as alliance partner Renault SA had been pushing for a change in the Japanese automaker’s leadership.

Renault Chief Executive Thierry Bollore is due to join Nissan’s board, while Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard will remain on the board, said the sources, who were briefed on the matter. The appointments are likely to be announced on Friday and presented for approval at a shareholder meeting in June.

There has been widespread speculation about Saikawa’s future and the coming make-up of the board after Nissan this week flagged a 28% drop in annual profit and slashed its dividend, underscoring its struggle to turn the page after the ouster of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

The French automaker has been pushing for merger talks between the two companies, but Saikawa – who has long opposed full integration – is seen as an obstacle to a tie-up, several people have told Reuters.

Nissan’s lacklustre performance has sparked concern at Renault, its top shareholder. Analysts estimate that Nissan’s planned 30% dividend cut this year will wipe around 130 million euros ($145 million) off Renault’s earnings.

The make-up of Nissan’s board has vast implications for the Nissan-Renault alliance. The unequal relationship between them – smaller Renault has the bigger stake in Nissan – has long been a source of friction in Japan.

A Nissan spokesman said the company could not comment on speculation.

Ghosn’s November arrest in Japan and immediate ouster by Nissan strained the partnership, as Renault resisted a full investigation of alliance finances and kept its absent leader in office as chairman and CEO for two more months.

Ghosn, who denies any wrongdoing, is out on bail and awaiting trial in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct and allegedly enriching himself at Nissan’s expense.

Sadayuki Sakakibara – the former chairman of powerful Keidanren business lobby, widely seen as a potential Nissan board candidate – will not be appointed, the sources said.

The sources declined to be identified because the information has not been made public.

Nissan will also increase the number of board seats to 11 from eight, and will double the number of outside directors to six, public broadcaster NHK said, citing sources.

Nissan’s shares were little changed, underperforming a 1.5% rise in the Nikkei share average.

($1 = 0.8947 euros)

Reporting by Maki Shiraki; Writing by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by David Dolan and Himani SarkarOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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