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Nissan chief, new Renault chairman to meet in Japan this week

Combined photo shows Nissan Motor Co. President Hiroto Saikawa, left, and Renault SA's new chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said Tuesday he plans to meet the new Renault SA chairman in Japan soon, with the focus of the talks apparently to be on the future of the alliance following the arrest of the two carmakers' former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

The talks between Saikawa and Jean-Dominique Senard, who will be making his first visit to Japan since being appointed Renault chairman in late January, will be held on Thursday and Friday, according to a source close to the matter.

"I've been hoping for an early visit by him. It is good that it will likely be realized. I hope he will become well acquainted with (Renault's) relationship with Nissan and with our members at Nissan," Saikawa told reporters in Tokyo.

The automakers have been working on a management revamp nearly three months after their former boss Ghosn was arrested in Japan over alleged financial misconduct at Nissan. He was dismissed as chairman by Nissan in November and resigned as Renault chairman in late January.

The Japanese carmaker intends to appoint Senard as a new member of the board at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting on April 8.

But tensions remain between the two automakers over who will be the new chairman at Nissan or who will lead the Franco-Japanese alliance, which, with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. as a third partner, has become the world's second-largest automaker group.

The French government, the top shareholder in Renault, apparently wants to secure influence over Nissan by having Senard become its chairman.

Nissan has been reluctant to move quickly on the issue, saying that it wants to make a decision based on proposals to be compiled by a committee on enhancing corporate governance by the end of March. Saikawa has been critical of the concentration of power under Ghosn, who was in the automaker's leadership for nearly two decades.

Ghosn's arrest by Japanese prosecutors in mid-November has fueled speculation that the structure of the three-way alliance may be reviewed.

Renault holds a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan with voting rights. But some Nissan executives feel that the structure of the alliance is unfair, given that the Japanese automaker holds only a 15 percent stake in Renault without voting rights but now contributes about half of its net profit.

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