PARIS (Reuters) – France must protect its own interests and jobs in any merger between Renault and Fiat, even though France’s stake in Renault would automatically be diluted, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio on Tuesday.
Le Maire said the French government would seek “four guarantees” on the Renault/Fiat deal, including the protection of French jobs, ensuring France was well-represented on the board of the new entity, and ensuring Renault/Fiat was a leader in the development of electric batteries.
“The first: industrial jobs and industrial sites. I told the Renault chairman very clearly that it was the first of the guarantees I wanted from him in the opening of these negotiations. A guarantee on the preservation of industrial jobs and sites in France,” said Le Maire.
Le Maire confirmed that if the deal went ahead, France’s stake in Renault would go down to 7.5% from 15% at present.
Le Maire wanted a commitment from Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard that no Renault factories in France would close, and that French interests would be well represented in the leadership of a new Renault/Fiat company.
The merged group would be chaired by Agnelli family scion John Elkann, sources familiar with the talks told Reuters, while Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard would likely become CEO.
Fiat Chrysler pitched a finely balanced merger of equals to Renault on Monday to tackle the costs of far-reaching technological and regulatory changes by creating the world’s third-biggest automaker.
If it goes ahead, the $35 billion-plus tie-up would alter the landscape for rivals including General Motors and Peugeot maker PSA Group, although trade unions in Italy and France do not want any big job losses from the deal.
A deal could also have profound repercussions for Renault’s 20-year-old alliance with Nissan, already weakened by the crisis surrounding the arrest and ousting of former chairman Carlos Ghosn late last year.
Le Maire said he had spoken to the Japanese personally about the proposed tie-up.
“I want this deal to take place within the framework of the alliance between Renault and Nissan,” said Le Maire.
Asked about Nissan’s reaction so far, Le Maire replied: “I look at the reaction of Nissan president Mr Saikawa, and it’s a reaction that is open.”
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Additional reporting by Myriam Rivet and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Richard Lough)