GENEVA -- DaimlerChrysler AG and Renault SA are still weighing whether to take an equity stake in Nissan Motor Co. even as Nissan says it might remain independent if neither European carmaker proposes an attractive enough offer.
Executives of the three companies, in interviews yesterday during the Geneva auto show, said that a takeover of even a part of Nissan, Japan's second-largest carmaker, is far from certain, though DaimlerChrysler and Renault each want to increase their presence in Asia.
Germany's DaimlerChrysler, the world's No. 5 carmaker, has been reported to be interested in an equity stake of at least 33.4 percent in Nissan, which would give it management control.
Executives of France's Renault have said they are interested in a stake, but would not want to buy all of Nissan, which is 4.3 trillion yen ($35.4 billion) in debt.
"What we have been looking at, and continue to look at, is a relationship that would involve an equity participation in both Nissan Motor Co. and Nissan Diesel [truck unit]," said Robert Eaton, the DaimlerChrysler co-chairman.
DaimlerChrysler doesn't need the acquisition to survive, and may decide to build its own factories in Asia, Eaton said.
Renault is "right now at a point" where it has not decided whether to make an offer for Nissan, said Francois Hinfray, Renault executive vice president.
A Nissan Europe marketing chief said the outcome depends on the shape of whatever the car companies propose.
"Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe neither DaimlerChrysler or Renault will offer the guarantees Nissan would need to make the arrangement," said Peter Slater, vice president for marketing at Nissan Europe.
A DaimlerChrysler alliance with Nissan would help the maker of Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler cars and trucks expand in Asia while giving Nissan cash to help repay its debt, which is the largest in the automotive industry.
Nissan forecasts a group net loss of 30 billion yen ($247 million) for its fiscal year that ends March 31 -- the sixth loss in seven years -- which would force the sale of assets.
"Nissan Japan has stated it is quite willing to release a substantial amount of control to a partner, if it's the right partner," Slater said.
Pub Date: 3/10/99