Fiat-Chrysler-Renault merger still ‘interesting’, says French minister

Fiat-Chrysler withdrew a Renault merger offer last week. [Photo: EPA-EFE/LAWRENCE LOOI]

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday (13 June) that a Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger remained an “interesting opportunity” but added he would tell the French carmaker’s chairman that strengthening the Renault-Nissan alliance is the priority.

The French state is Renault’s biggest shareholder and sources have said chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is furious over the government’s interference after Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) withdrew its offer for a €35 billion merger with Renault.

Le Maire said he would meet Senard later on Thursday, with the chairman’s position seen weakened by the deal’s collapse and the ensuing fallout with President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Fiat-Chrysler withdraws Renault merger offer

Fiat-Chrysler’s (FCA) $35 billion-plus merger offer to Renault fell apart only 10 days after being made public, with both companies’ shares falling sharply in early trading on Thursday (6 June). FCA blamed French politicians for the collapse.

The minister told franceinfo radio he was not responsible for derailing the proposal that would have created the world’s third biggest carmaker behind Japan’s Toyota and Germany’s Volkswagen.

“It remains an interesting opportunity. But I have always been very clear: that it should be in the context of a strategy to reinforce the (Renault-Nissan) alliance.”

“As long as the French state is the main shareholder, its responsibility to the company, its employees, its factories and research centers is to fulfill its role with other shareholders in defining a strategy.”

The deal collapsed after Nissan said it would abstain at a Renault board meeting to vote on the merger proposal, prompting Le Maire to request the Renault board to postpone the vote for five days.

“We simply asked for five extra days. Five additional days seems entirely reasonable to me,” Le Maire said. “Fiat withdrew its offer, as it was entitled to do. But believe me, the state will never react under pressure.”

The Brief – Merger madness

Fiat-Chrysler’s offer to merge with Renault fell apart last week, with the Italian-American firm citing French government influence as an insurmountable challenge. How does this tally with Paris and Berlin’s quest to create so-called European champions to compete globally?

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