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French government derailed €33bn Fiat-Renault merger, says Italy

Andreas Solaro, AFP file picture | Italy’s vice-Premier Minister Luigi Di Maio in Rome, in May, 2018

Italy’s Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio squarely blamed the French government for Fiat Chrysler withdrawing its €33bn ($35bn) merger offer for Renault, which could have created a new global giant spanning the USA, Europe and Japan.

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“State meddling is what caused the deal to fail and Renault wasn’t happy with that. It was a market operation that could have helped Italy and Italians,” Di Maio, who is also deputy prime minister, told Radio 24.

“I believe France cut a poor figure over a deal which was a market operation for which we showed respect.

“Despite being in touch with Fiat Chrysler and its top executives, we showed respect for the company and its negotiations.”

France owns 15 percent of Renault

A source close to the French carmaker's board said Fiat Chrysler made the move after France sought to delay a decision on the deal in order to win the support of Nissan Motor Co, Renault's Japanese alliance partner.

French government officials had pushed for Nissan to support the merger. Nissan had said it would abstain.

The French government, which owns a 15 percent stake in Renault, had also pushed US-Italian group Fiat Chrysler and Renault for guarantees that France would not lose jobs, and for a dividend to be paid to Renault shareholders, including the government, people familiar with the talks said. "It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully," Fiat Chrysler said in a statement.

‘State not to blame’

Renault, in a separate statement, said its board was "unable to take a decision due to the request expressed by the representatives of the French state to postpone the vote to a later meeting."

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire defended the government’s role in the negotiations, dismissing Fiat Chrysler’s assertion that politics were to blame.

If the firms had combined they would have produced 8.7 million vehicles a year, creating an industry powerhouse with an expected market value of some €36bn ($40bn).

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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