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Nissan CEO, FCA chairman to hold talks over Renault merger

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

TOKYO/LONDON (Kyodo) -- The chiefs of Nissan Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. are set to meet over the Italian-American company's plan to merge with Renault SA, the Japanese carmaker's 20-year alliance partner, a source familiar with the situation said Friday.

FCA Chairman John Elkann has sent Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa a letter requesting a meeting and says he is looking forward to holding talks with him at an appropriate time, the source said.

Saikawa told reporters earlier Friday in Tokyo he "would like to meet" Elkann to be directly briefed on the merger plan, adding the location and date of the envisioned meeting has not yet been decided.

Saikawa has not clarified whether he agrees with the merger plan between Renault and FCA, saying he wants to examine the potential impact on Nissan's business operations. The deal would create the world's third-largest automaker group by volume.

At a meeting of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the third partner in the alliance, near Tokyo on Wednesday, the French carmaker's CEO, Thierry Bollore, and chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, revealed the planned merger with FCA to the Japanese companies and sought their support, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

FCA said Monday it has proposed a plan to Renault in which shareholders on each side would take 50 percent in a merged entity. It said the combination would improve capital efficiency and the speed of product development.

If Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors are included in any FCA-Renault merger plan, the prospective group's global sales would reach 15.6 million vehicles, far exceeding the 10.83 million units the Volkswagen group sold last year.

The integration talks between Renault and FCA came as Nissan rebuffed a merger proposal by Renault in April, saying it needs to concentrate on improving its own business, overshadowed by the arrest last November of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct.

Nissan has decided to halve Saikawa's remuneration for fiscal 2019 ending March from a year earlier for his failure to prevent Ghosn's alleged financial misconduct and for the company's dismal earnings, a source with knowledge of the matter said Friday, adding the pay cut was requested by the chief.

Nissan's group net profit plunged 57.3 percent to 319.14 billion yen ($2.93 billion) in fiscal 2018, a nine-year low, weighed down by weak U.S. sales.

Nissan said the same day it paid a total of 2.43 billion yen in that year to eight board members, excluding outside directors, down 900 million yen from fiscal 2017, after Saikawa voluntarily returned part of his annual remuneration and Ghosn was stripped of his role as chairman in November last year.

The names and the breakdown of compensation packages for executives receiving annual pay of 100 million yen or more will be disclosed in Nissan's financial statement at a later date.

Of the around 3.3 billion yen that was paid in fiscal 2017 as remuneration to eight board members, excluding outside directors, about 2.5 billion went to Ghosn and around 500 million yen to Saikawa.

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