The automakers Renault and Nissan have agreed to a profound reorganization of the alliance that they sealed more than two decades ago.
The French group will reduce the shares in its Japanese partner from 43% to 15%, so that the two will have the same participation in the other company, as announced this Monday in a statement.
With this agreement, Nissan achieves its goal of rebalancing a relationship that has not been without tension in recent years and Renault gets its ally to invest in its electric car business unit.
The Japanese manufacturer had been trying to limit the control of the French firm in its management for some time, a situation that has always been a source of friction between the two firms.
From now on the companies will be treated as equals: they will have voting rights equal to their 15% stake, no more.
In Renault's current dominant scheme over Nissan, the Japanese firm had no voting rights in the French group.
The companies ensure that this agreement guarantees "balanced governance".
The remaining 28.4% of Renault's stake in Nissan will be transferred to a French trust, where voting rights will be "neutralized" for most decisions, while maintaining economic rights (dividends and income from share sales).
"Renault will instruct the trustee to sell these Nissan shares if economic conditions are reasonable for Renault, in an organized and orderly process, but there will be no obligation to sell its shares within a specific predetermined period," the companies state.
The operation is pending the approval of the boards of directors of Renault and Nissan.
The executives of the two companies have been working on the agreement for months, the objective of which is to "strengthen the ties of the alliance and maximize the creation of value for all parties."
Renault manages, in exchange for giving up its primacy in the alliance, for Nissan to invest in Ampere, the French firm's electric car development business unit, "with the aim of becoming a strategic shareholder."
The amount of the investment has not been quantified for the moment.
They have also committed to collaborate on a number of joint projects in Latin America, India and Europe.
The pact represents one of the biggest changes in the relationship between the two automobile giants since their alliance was forged in 1999. Then, the French company came to the rescue of the Japanese company, which was experiencing economic problems, with an initial investment of 4,000 million Dollars.
In 2002, Nissan entered the capital of Renault with a 15% stake, but without voting rights.
Over the years, the French firm increased its weight in the capital of its Japanese partner.
Carlos Ghosn, former president of both firms, was one of the main plotters of the alliance and for years he managed to overcome the tensions and suspicions between the two manufacturers, caused on numerous occasions by the imbalance of power between the partners.
Since Ghosn left the group at the end of 2018, after being arrested in Japan for tax fraud, the two companies have negotiated new cooperation formulas - it was even published in the press that the alliance was on the verge of breaking up - and they have added a third leg, Mitsubishi, which cooperates in the development of around thirty electric car models.
One of the most tense moments occurred in 2019, when it emerged that Renault was contemplating a merger that Nissan put a stop to.
The negotiations to reach the agreement announced this Monday have been very tense, both due to differences in intellectual property issues and the valuation of Renault's electric car business, according to sources cited by the Bloomberg agency.
"The rebalancing in the shareholding structure should yesterday make the alliance viable, maintain synergies and open up new strategic opportunities," says Philippe Houchois, an analyst at Jefferies, in a note.
While Nissan has closed with a loss of 0.68% in the Japanese market, Renault's shares have fallen 4.4%, to 36.52 euros, on the Paris Stock Exchange.
The French manufacturer, led by Luca de Meo, had a difficult year last year: in May it announced the sale of its assets to the Russian authorities and to give up vehicle manufacturing in the country, which until then was its second market.
That operation, motivated by the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, has resulted in net losses of 2,200 million euros and led it to register losses of 1,666 million in the first half.
Nissan has also sold all its assets to the Russian state for one euro, with a negative impact on its accounts of 707 million.
The automobile sector is in a delicate moment that also affects Nissan and Renault.
The lack of supply of components and energy and transport costs have had a negative impact on supply, and passenger car registrations fell by 4.6% in the EU, although a rebound was detected at the end of the year , according to the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers.