Exclusive-Renault, Nissan aim to announce deal on reshaped alliance on Feb 6 -sources

By Norihiko Shirouzu, Gilles Guillaume and Maki Shiraki

TOKYO/PARIS (Reuters) -French car maker Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan Motor aim to formally unveil a deal to reshape their alliance in London on Feb. 6, two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Leaders of the two companies met via video link for an alliance board meeting on Thursday following months of intense negotiations over how to reset their long-running partnership. They opted for that format – rather than having Renault CEO Luca de Meo and Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard travel to Japan – because the talks have been progressing well, sources had previously told Reuters.

A third source close to the matter said Thursday’s meeting had gone off “without a hitch” but there were details that still needed to be worked out.

“As of today, we cannot say that we have reached an agreement,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential, said.

The source added there was no major gap between the two companies and that the negotiations were unlikely to break down. But he also said that the Feb. 6 date for an announcement was not written in stone yet.

The boards of the two companies would still need to individually approve a potential deal after Thursday’s meeting.

Renault is looking for the Japanese automaker to invest in its new electric-vehicle business while Nissan wants Renault, its top shareholder, to sell down its roughly 43% stake and put the 23-year alliance on a more equal footing.

Renault has consistently declined to comment publicly about the talks with its Japanese partner, while a spokesperson for Nissan declined to comment on Thursday.

The two companies are expected to announce five joint projects to relaunch the alliance, covering manufacturing, technology and further geographical development, including in India, one of the sources told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear if already announced deals to produce the successor to the Nissan Micra in a Renault plant in France and junior alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp’s new ASX and Colt in Renault plants in Spain and Turkey would be considered part of those five projects.

Renault boss de Meo has said the company had proposed working together on 10-15 projects.

The future shape of the Franco-Japanese alliance has implications for both companies as well as Mitsubishi Motors. It also highlights how the immense technological upheaval in the auto industry is forcing companies to both partner and compete with a dizzying number of newcomers and tech firms.

Renault, for instance, has said it will partner with companies from China’s Geely Automobile Holdings to semiconductor giant Qualcomm Inc.

Renault is separately working to finalise a deal with Geely and to bring in Saudi Arabian state oil producer Aramco as an investor and partner to develop gasoline engines and hybrid technologies, Reuters has reported.

Nissan has been concerned that the technology it has developed while partnered with Renault could leak to the French automaker’s partners as it restructures, Reuters has reported.

One of the sources who spoke to Reuters on Thursday however said those concerns had now been addressed.

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris and Norihiko Shirouzo in Tokyo; writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Richard Lough, Kirsten Donovan and Jane Merriman)