French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire yesterday demanded that local plants remain open as part of a proposed merger between Italian-US giant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and France’s Renault SA.
The French government, which owns a 15 percent stake in Renault, has so far backed the idea of a merger, which would reshape the industry by forging the world’s third-largest automaker.
However, Le Maire, speaking on RTL radio, asked Renault board chairman Jean-Dominique Senard for a guarantee “on the preservation of jobs and industrial sites in France” and a commitment that no factory be closed in the country.”
“This is the first guarantee that I requested from Mr Senard on the opening of these negotiations with Fiat,” Le Maire said. “Since I have agreed to the opening of negotiations, it is up to him to come back to me in the coming days on the guarantees he was able to obtain from Fiat.”
When Fiat presented Renault with the 50-50 merger proposal on Monday, it said the deal would not result in any production sites closing.
Renault said it would study Fiat’s proposal “with interest” and after a board meeting over what it termed a “friendly” offer, the French carmaker said it would enter talks on a merger.
Le Maire confirmed that the French state would not increase its 15 percent stake in Renault, so would hold about 7.5 percent in the new group after the 50-50 merger.
The CGT union at Renault has been wary of the plan, urging the French government to maintain a blocking minority after any deal.
Le Maire said he was waiting for the deal “to be done as part of the alliance between Renault and Nissan [Motor Co].”
Renault holds 43 percent in Nissan, which in turn owns 15 percent of its French partner.
Le Maire also asked Senard for assurances that “French interests will be well represented” in the new group and called the merger “a great opportunity for Renault and the European automotive industry.”
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