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Nissan cuts outlook and books Ghosn charges

13 February 2019

The company said it logged costs about 9.2 billion yen ($83 million) related to the alleged false underreporting of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn's compensation.

The scandal has roiled global auto markets and created tensions between Nissan and its automaking partner France's Renault, raising concerns about the future of the companies that Ghosn wanted to integrate.

In the wake of the Ghosn affair - in which the alleged improprieties occurred over almost a decade - Nissan has pledged to review its governance, including a possible overhaul of the board's composition.

CEO Hiroto Saikawa vowed to "refine" the firm's ties with Renault, whose new boss Jean-Dominique Senard is expected to take Ghosn's position on the Nissan board. Stocks of both companies are down sharply since Ghosn's arrest. The so-called deferred pay has emerged as a point of focus for Tokyo prosecutors who have indicted Ghosn for allegedly understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars. Saikawa said Tuesday the alliance may need to revisit the targets it has set for 2022 - a set of goals given in 2017 that call for synergies and increased annual vehicle sales.

Nissan, which is nearly 60 percent bigger than Renault by sales, remains junior in their shareholding structure.

Renault owns 43 per cent of Nissan, and Nissan owns 15 per cent of Renault.

This would be Nissan's lowest operating profit since 2013.

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"Renault has gathered sufficient evidence to understand and regret the methods used by Nissan and its lawyers to seek interviews with Renault employees through the Japanese public prosecutor's office", they said. "We want to build mutual trust and good communication". Nissan says it expects to sell 5.6 million units, compared with its prior projection of 5.9 million units, on falling sales in the USA and Europe.

While it still sees sales growing in China, the world's top auto market, it trimmed its forecast for the country to 1.56 million units from 1.70 million units.

Nissan and its domestic rivals, including Toyota Motor Corp, have struggled with sluggish sales and falling profit in North America.

While it has been able to fix some of its profits in North America as inventory reduction of older models enabled it to dial back on heavy USA discounting, falling demand will test Nissan's ability to be disciplined with its incentives.

The Nissan results came at a tough time for Japanese carmarkers. The previous projection was for a 500 billion yen (4.5 billion) profit.

Nissan was seeking "evidence to support allegations against Carlos Ghosn after his arrest" and failed to consult its French partner, according to the newspaper.

The amount of salary expense for Ghosn reflects what the company sees as compensation that was promised, but not yet paid.

Nissan cuts outlook and books Ghosn charges