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Nissan may scrap Renault deal over technology sharing with Geely

Nissan sees risks in Renault Chief Executive Officer Luca de Meo’s plan to merge the French carmaker’s combustion engine business with Geely.

Nissan Motor Co. is willing to part with a deal with Renault SA to rebalance their alliance amid concerns the French automaker plans to license hundreds of jointly developed patented technologies to other players, including new Chinese partner Zheijiang Geely Holding Group , acquaintances with the negotiations said.

While both sides appeared to be getting close to a final deal two weeks ago, Nissan’s board and management recently expressed concerns about Renault’s intellectual property plans, people said, asking not to identified because the information is not public.

It includes about 500 collaborative technologies, one of the people said, including expertise in areas such as autonomous driving, hybrid powertrains, solid-state batteries, safety systems, battery management software and other know-how essential to developing self-driving, electrified vehicles.

Nissan sees risks in Renault Chief Executive Officer Luca de Meo’s plan to merge the French carmaker’s internal combustion engine business with Geely, the people said, seeking assurances that key technologies will be protected under any deal with the Hangzhou-based automaker, owner of Volvo. and Lotus car brands.

Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said he was “surprised” at speculation that the IP discussion could derail the broader deal, but acknowledged that technology was a “very important core asset for the alliance”.

“Of course there are areas where we have to say ‘this is our core technology’ and that has to be protected,” Uchida said in an interview with Bloomberg News Friday. “That is my duty as CEO.”

Geely did not immediately respond to questions from Bloomberg. A Renault representative declined to comment. Greater control Talks have been going on for months to reshape the two-decade-old alliance, giving Renault greater control over its Japanese partner. Under the current plan, the French company will reduce its ownership of Nissan over time to 15% from the current 43%. In return, Nissan may be willing to invest $500 million to $750 million for a roughly 15% stake in the new electric vehicle unit Renault plans to develop, codenamed Ampere.

“There are things we can say that we can’t say yet because we haven’t finalized it yet,” Uchida said. “I have very close conversations with Luca. We respect each other because I know that Luca has to make Renault much stronger and he understands that I have to make Nissan stronger. And the most important thing, of course, is trust.”

Renault is scheduled to meet with investors on Nov. 8, when de Meo is expected to provide an update on its financial targets and split plan.

“Renault, our partner, is going to have this capital markets day and that’s what we need to support,” Uchida said. “And I want that to be a success.” Ghosn’s arrest The shift in ownership would reduce an imbalance that has been a source of friction for years. Despite Renault’s high importance, it is the smaller automaker with 2.7 million car sales in 2021, compared to 4 million for Nissan.

The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who was sent to lead the carmaker alliance when Renault rescued Nissan 20 years ago, sowed the first seeds for the rebalancing. The former chairman and chief executive officer, who denied the allegations, escaped from Japan in December 2019 while on bail and is currently in Lebanon.

While De Meo has indicated he is willing to split up Renault, with or without a deal with Nissan, the withdrawal of the Japanese company could make it more difficult to gain approval from the French state – which owns 15% of Renault and doubles it. voting rights — – for such a transformative move.

Nissan’s concerns mean that an agreement on the rebalancing is unlikely to be announced as planned in mid-November, when the directors of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the junior member of the three-way alliance, meet in Tokyo. the people said.

‘Great technology, great assets’

Another bottleneck is Ampere’s valuation. The lack of a specific figure backed up by data makes it difficult for Nissan to determine how much to invest for a stake in the new entity, which Renault plans to make public, one of the people said.

Uchida declined to comment on the timing of any announcement, or on Ampere’s valuation.

According to Renault’s plans, Ampere would be based in France and would employ about 10,000 people by 2023. The Geely entity, codenamed Horse, is also said to have approximately 10,000 employees.

“We discussed how we can make each individual company’s alliance stronger under the difficult conditions we face,” Uchida said. “That’s how it started. We also wanted to talk about how the alliance can maximize the great technology and great assets that both companies have.”

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