Nissan shareholders to vote on governance overhaul

Yokohama (Japan) (AFP) –


Nissan shareholders are set for a fractious annual meeting Tuesday over revamping operations at the crisis-hit Japanese automaker following the Carlos Ghosn scandal and amid testy ties with French partner Renault.

The meeting will see votes on a series of reforms to the Japanese car giant designed to put Nissan on a more stable footing, after the shock caused by former boss Ghosn's arrest on multiple financial misconduct charges.

Adding to the company's operational woes, net profits fell to a near-decade low in the last business year. The company has already warned of "a difficult business environment" for the next 12 months.

Nissan aims to set up three new oversight committees on the appointment of senior officials, pay and audit -- a reaction to allegations that Ghosn had too much power concentrated in just his hands.

But the plan hit the skids with Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan and complained it did not have enough of a say in the new structure.

Crisis was averted when Nissan suggested Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard sit on the appointments committee, and CEO Thierry Bollore on the audit committee.

However, Renault will not be represented on the new committee on pay -- possibly reflecting longstanding rancour in Japan over Ghosn's high rewards compared to most Japanese CEOs.

- Under pressure -

Nissan is also seeking shareholder approval to elect 11 directors as it restructures itself, including the two Renault executives as well as current Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa.

Saikawa himself has come under pressure both for the disastrous financial performance of Nissan and because the Ghosn protege is seen as a legacy of that era.

Along with Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motors, the Renault-Nissan alliance forms the world's biggest-selling auto group.

The partnership was sorely strained after November's shock arrest of Ghosn, long considered one of the most astute and powerful executives in the industry.

Since then, Nissan has accused Renault of having too much weight in the alliance, and of keeping it in the dark over its tie-up plans with Fiat Chrysler (FCA), which collapsed over reservations expressed by the French government.

"Re-building a bond of trust is not very easy," noted Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Sawakami Asset Management.

Ghosn, who was sacked from all his roles, is awaiting trial in Japan on charges of under-reporting millions of dollars in salary and of using company funds for personal expenses -- accusations he denies.