Technology sharing as crux of Renault, Nissan’s reset issues, sources say

PARIS/TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Technology sharing has become a sticking point between Renault SA (RENA.PA) and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) as the two sides negotiate overhauling their dozens of years of partnership, two people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

French and Japanese automakers said this month they were discussing the future of the alliance, including a possible investment by Nissan in an electric-car business spun off from Renault.

The discussions include considering selling some of its roughly 43 percent stake in Nissan, a move that would put the two sides on a more equal footing and mark the start of a long-running executive-driven alliance founded in 1999, Reuters previously reported. Carlos Ghosn turned fugitive into a sea change.

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Intellectual property sharing has become a focus of those talks, said two people familiar with the matter, who declined to be named because the information is not public.

For the French automaker, a “restart” means the relationship needs to be more than financial, one of the people said.

“What matters is what Nissan brings in terms of intellectual property, engineers and joint projects,” the person said.

With Nissan holding just 15 percent of Renault — and no voting rights — France’s dominance in the alliance has long been a point of contention. Many executives at the Japanese automaker see the relationship as uneven, especially in terms of development.

Nissan’s focus is on sharing future technologies, including all-solid-state batteries it is currently developing for electric vehicles, a second person familiar with the matter said. The person said that the sharing of old technology is not a big problem.

Renault is spinning off its electric vehicle business, code-named “Ampere,” from its traditional combustion-engine unit, code-named “Horse,” to catch up with U.S. rival Tesla Inc (TSLA. OH).

Nissan and Renault declined to comment.

Focus on politics

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the French government, which owns about 15 percent of Renault, wants the automaker to maintain its industrial and technological edge.

After his comments, Japan’s trade ministry asked Nissan about its position, one of the people said.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry did not respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours.

Renault wants Nissan to invest in its electric vehicle unit, while Nissan wants Renault to reduce its stake to 15 percent, Reuters previously reported.

The two have yet to reach an agreement on the investment as there is no clear unit valuation, three of the people said.

Bloomberg News, citing sources, said Nissan would invest between $500 million and $750 million in exchange for a roughly 15 percent stake in the unit.

A person familiar with the talks said Renault was the more eager of the two companies to strike a deal, given its investment needs.

“There is no reason Nissan must be absolutely involved” in the division, the person said, adding that Nissan needs to explain to shareholders the cost-effectiveness of the investment.

The automaker aims to make an announcement in November. While details have yet to be finalized, it will still take weeks to complete, one of the people said.

The alliance’s junior partner, Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T), may invest a few percent in Renault’s new unit to maintain its alliance, another person familiar with the matter said.

Mitsubishi said it had not yet considered the investment in detail.

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Reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris and Maki Shiraki and David Dolan in Tokyo; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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