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Renault’s restructuring business: pulling Nissan to invest in electric cars

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) — Japanese automaker Nissan’s extra attention to intellectual property protection is complicating Renault’s plans to restructure the company’s business, according to three people familiar with the matter.

French automaker Renault is restructuring its business in several ways. On the one hand, Renault intends to restructure its electric car business by convincing Nissan to invest in a new electric car unit, Ampere.

At the same time, Renault also plans to divest its fuel car business, Horse, and sell a majority stake in it to Geely.

Nissan is concerned about protecting the intellectual property it owns, which will require Renault to continue multiple negotiations and possibly close multiple deals at once.

Nissan also wants to ensure that key internal-combustion engine and hybrid technologies owned by the company are protected in a deal between Renault and Geely, two people familiar with the matter said.

One of the people familiar with the matter said the deal between Renault and Geely progressed after talks in London, England, last month, but he did not provide specific details. Geely Chief Executive Li Shufu had previously been in London for the negotiations in person, the person familiar with the matter said.

The news comes on the heels of news that Geely could take a large stake in Renault’s fuel car business.

The talks between Renault and Nissan took place last week in Paris, France. Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said last week that he and Renault CEO Luca de Meo were in communication every weekend.

Nissan’s concerns about intellectual property protection are among the reasons why the company has not reached a preliminary agreement to invest in Renault’s electric car unit Ampere. The sources said there are unresolved issues between the two sides over intellectual property rights for cutting-edge technologies such as solid-state batteries.

Among the discussions between the two sides is the need to ensure that any technology transferred to Ampere remains within the electric vehicle unit, two people familiar with the matter said.

Uchida said Nissan’s goal is to restructure “an equal partnership” to improve the competitiveness of both companies in the transition to electric vehicles.

Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, while Nissan holds 15 percent of Renault’s non-voting shares. The two sides have been discussing reducing Renault’s stake in Nissan to 15 percent, people familiar with the matter said.

In January, the Renault-Nissan alliance announced plans to invest a total of $26 billion. But this investment is only half the size of its larger rival Volkswagen.

Makoto Uchida said it was important to reach a co-investment optimization agreement with Renault, because the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s investment scale is still lower than what he called “large OEM” investment plans.

Uchida also said that Nissan wants to see its own interests in the new partnership between Renault and Geely to get “fair treatment”.

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