GM, Ghosn Talks Intensify; Automaker Seeks Payment

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The New York Sun

General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner and Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co., will continue talks on an alliance that may help the automakers increase profit.

The companies said today that the discussions will run until October 15,as originally scheduled. Their joint statement followed a three-hour meeting between Mr. Wagoner and Mr. Ghosn in Paris.

As the talks move into their final weeks, GM is seeking billions of dollars in compensation from the French and Japanese automakers to make an alliance fair to its shareholders, according to three people familiar with GM’s position.

GM’s requirement for additional compensation is the latest wrinkle in the discussions, which began in mid-July. Last week, three people familiar with the negotiations said an initial proposal that Nissan and Renault invest in GM as minority shareholders is unlikely to happen.

Much of the savings identified in the first two months of talks favor the French and German automakers, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified because the talks are private.

“It behooves both sides to be polite publicly and finish their discussions on the original timetable,” said John Casesa, managing partner at Casesa Strategic Advisors LLC, a financial consulting firm in New York. “Even though this doesn’t appear to be on track for an agreement, both sides have to make a serious effort to study it.”

GM is trying to restructure its North American operations after $10.6 billion in losses last year. The company, the world’s largest, is studying the alliance at the request of its fourth-largest shareholder, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Mr. Wagoner wants a multi-billion dollar payment as part of any partnership and that Mr. Ghosn has countered the alliance would save the companies $10 billion, quoting people familiar with the discussions. GM spokesman Steve Harris said GM had no comment about the meeting beyond the statement today. “Things are going in a good direction,” Mr. Ghosn said in a brief interview at Renault’s headquarters outside Paris after the meeting with Mr. Wagoner.

The three automakers have identified billions in savings in areas such as purchasing, said two of the people. The problem is that a majority of the savings are projected to come whether GM enters into an alliance or not, so Renault and Nissan would be getting more than their fair share, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

GM Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said yesterday in a Webcast of a meeting with investors that GM will give a “thoughtful” analysis to the proposed alliance. Powertrain technology and vehicle development are potential areas where the three companies could mutually benefit, he said.

He said GM would have to consider “the value to the GM shareholder” before agreeing to an alliance.

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