Corp. says its board of directors will consider a deal put forth by one of its largest shareholders to form an alliance with Motor Co. Ltd. and SA.
A letter to GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner from Tracinda Corp., billionaire GM stakeholder Kirk Kerkorian’s investment company, saysand are “receptive” to the idea of including GM in their partnership-alliance and purchasing a “significant minority” interest in the world’s No.1 car maker.
The letter urges GM’s board of directors to create a committee to investigate such a partnership together with GM’s management.
GM issued a statement saying it had not received an offer or proposal from Renault or Nissan. But the company says GM’s board will take the Tracinda request “under advisement.”
GM declined further comment.
Tracinda also issued a letter informing Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer and Renault and Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn about its proposal to GM. In that letter, Tracinda references previous discussions with Ghosn about a 3-way alliance.
In a statement issued Friday, Nissan says the Renault-Nissan Alliance is an open partnership and never has been restricted to two partners. "Under the right circumstances and with the appropriate partners, the Alliance could be expanded further," Nissan says. However, the auto maker says "it is necessary that (the) GM board and top management fully support this project in order to start the study of this opportunity after agreement of (the) Renault and Nissan boards."
The proposal to GM was copied to GM’s board, including Jerry York, who represents Tracinda and Kerkorian.
Tracinda owns 56 million shares in GM, or 9.9% of its outstanding stock. York has pushed aggressively for GM to cut costs and sell off what he sees as under-performing brands, including Hummer and Saab.
The letter, part of a Securities and Exchange Commission document filed June 30, says the Nissan-Renault partnership “has created tremendous engineering, manufacturing and marketing synergies” that have helped cut costs for both companies.
“We believe that participating in a global partnership-alliance with Renault and Nissan could enableto realize substantial synergies and cost savings,” states the letter, signed by Anthony L. Mandekic, Tracinda’s secretary and treasurer.
There was no answer to calls placed to Tracinda’s Beverly Hills, CA, offices.
It’s unclear what specific plans, if any, are in place between Kerkorian and Ghosn as relates to GM. But Brett Smith, senior industry analyst with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI, says at the very least, Kerkorian’s move “puts an enormous amount of pressure on Wagoner and his team” to move faster on the turnaround plan.
“It’s pretty apparent Kerkorian thinks Ghosn is the agent of change to do this (turnaround GM),” Smith says. “In some ways, I think right now the real push is just the threat of this outside agent of change.”
Smith and other analysts are doubtful such a partnership immediately would improve GM’s financial and competitive status.
If GM pursues a partnership, it would be a major long-term positive for the auto maker, JP Morgan analyst Himanshu Patel writes in a research note.
“We doubt this would result in a full acquisition of General Motors given Carlos Ghosn’s historical aversion to full-scale automotive OEM mergers,” Patel writes.
An alliance is not likely to change GM’s current high labor costs in the U.S., the analyst writes. But a partnership could help strengthen each company’s product portfolio, given GM’s strength in heavy-duty diesels, and Nissan and Renault’s expertise in midsize and small cars, respectively, Patel notes.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance was formed in 1999. Renault now owns 44.4% of Nissan, and Nissan holds a 13.5% stake in Renault. Combined, the two produced 5.98 million vehicles last year.
Since 1999, General Motors Europe and Renault have partnered to produce 1.2 million light commercial vehicles through an alliance. GM subsidiary Adam Opel GmbH and Renault spent more than €700 million ($893 million) on design and production engineering to upgrade those vehicles.
Further collaboration between GM, Renault and Nissan in Europe potentially would allow both to cut costs by merging car platforms, cooperating in purchasing and rationalizing production.
A tie-up with Nissan also potentially would greatly improve GM’s presence in the Asia/Pacific region. GM systematically sold off its ownership stakes inMotors Ltd. and Motor Corp. recently, although it continues two development partnerships with the two companies.