TOKYO -- Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said he was not aware of discussions about the possibility that its French partner Renault was considering a bid for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
When asked by reporters whether he had heard about the talks, Saikawa responded: "Not at all."
The Financial Times reported that Renault is aiming to restart merger talks with Nissan within a year as the first step toward creating a bigger auto conglomerate that could involve a bid by both companies for Fiat Chrysler. Spokesmen for Renault, Nissan and Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the report.
Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government is unaware of the facts related to reports about Renault restarting the merger talks with Nissan. He said any specific movement toward maintaining or strengthening the alliance should be discussed “in a manner satisfactory” to the related parties.
Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko also said he has heard "absolutely nothing" about such talks.
The French government appeared to downplay the possibility of a tie-up with Fiat Chrysler. The French state is Renault's most powerful shareholder with extra voting rights and a 15 percent stake.
"The absolute priority for the French state is the Renault-Nissan Alliance," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Wednesday. Decisions made this month about governance should allow it to "get to work."
Renault and Nissan earlier this month unveiled a new board to govern their alliance, which has been on shaky ground ever since the November arrest of former head Carlos Ghosn, who is awaiting trial for alleged financial wrongdoing. He has denied the charges. Ghosn had planned to cement their alliance, yet such a move faced resistance from within Nissan due to a power imbalance within the two company’s shareholding structure.
The new alliance board led by Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has improved confidence so that the two sides can push ahead with merger plans, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with both sides' thinking.
A combination of Renault, Nissan, Fiat and Chrysler would create an automaker that could better compete against global competitors such as Volkswagen and Toyota. Ghosn held talks about merging Renault with Fiat Chrysler two to three years ago, but was stopped by the French government, according to the Financial Times report.
Fiat Chrysler is seeking a partnership or merger, and Chairman John Elkann has met with other rivals, including PSA Group of France, to gauge the possibility of a deal, the newspaper reported.
Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan, has a market capitalization of 17.3 billion euros ($19.5 billion). Nissan, which in turn owns 15 percent of Renault, has a market capitalization of about 3.85 trillion yen ($35 billion), while Fiat Chrysler’s is 20.8 billion euros.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report