The carmaker's Christmas Day announcement was a major indicator.
It's been an interesting month for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, to say the least. Former Chairman Carlos Ghosn is still sitting in a Japanese jail cell, though his longtime aide and fellow inmate, Greg Kelly, has just been granted bail. But with Ghosn currently out of the picture, what's been happening with the partnership he formed nearly two decades ago? Automotive News Europe reported that Nissan, on Christmas Day, announced it has updated its corporate governance code, meaning it has changed its cross-shareholding policy it has with Renault.
Renault is the largest stakeholder in Nissan and, in return, Nissan is the second-largest shareholder in Renault, the first being the French government. Both automakers have minority shareholdings in Daimler. But Nissan purposely announced this internal corporate change on a day when it knew the Renault offices would be closed and unable to immediately respond.
Bloomberg also reported a few days ago that Nissan has been increasing its cash reserves in order to potentially make a dramatic move. Could Nissan also be considering selling part or all of its 15 percent stake in Renault? Given the fact that Nissan was shoring up its cash supplies, it's certainly possible. Renault currently owns 43 percent of Nissan, estimated to be worth $14 billion. Nissan could be quickly mobilizing not just cash, but also other investors to either buy or dramatically reduce Renault's stake and, therefore, its influence.
In regards to voting rights of cross-shareholdings, Nissan's new governance code says the automaker will consider "whether or not it leads to the improvement of mid to long-term corporate value and shareholder interest and exercise our voting-rights properly." For the record, the previous version of the code made no mention of selling cross-holdings.
And then there's this section: "We will investigate including the option of sale of the shares when continued possession of the shares is judged to be inappropriate as a result of verification of the propriety of such cross-shareholdings." Without question these are bold moves on Nissan's part and with Renault still on vacation, its delayed response likely won't be enough to stop Nissan from strengthening its bargaining power.