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  1. LONDON (Reuters) - Carmaker Nissan has scrapped plans to build its new X-Trail SUV in Britain and will produce it solely in Japan, warning two months before Brexit that uncertainty over Britain’s departure was making it harder to plan for the future. Falling demand for diesel cars in Europe has forced Nissan to invest in other technologies and save costs. It cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland factory in the north of England, Britain’s biggest car plant, last year as output slumped 11 percent, hit by levies and crackdowns on diesel. “Nissan has increased its investments in new powertrains and technology for its future European vehicles,” the firm said. “Therefore the company has decided to optimize its investments in Europe by consolidating X-Trail production in Kyushu.” “While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future,” said Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy. Britain’s business minister Greg Clark described the announcement as a “blow to the sector and the region.” Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29. Lawmakers last month rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, heightening fears of a disorderly no-deal Brexit and of new trade barriers. May said on Sunday she would seek a “pragmatic solution”. “We have a task force in place, reporting to me, that is considering all of the possible scenarios and the potential impact on the business,” de Ficchy said in a letter to workers. Nissan builds roughly 30 percent of the country’s 1.52 million cars and exports the vast majority to the continent It said four months after Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 that it would manufacture the new X-Trail in Britain - a major vote of confidence in the country and May, shortly after she took office. A source told Reuters at the time that Nissan received a letter from the government promising extra support in the event that Brexit hit the competitiveness of the Sunderland plant. The new X-Trail could have created hundreds of jobs. The carmaker’s planned investment in the next-generation Juke and Qashqai models, which was also announced in 2016, was unaffected, the firm said on Sunday. The timing of the announcement comes just two days after an EU-Japan free trade agreement kicked in, which includes the European Union’s commitment to removing tariffs of 10 percent on imported Japanese cars. Many Japanese companies had long seen Britain as the gateway into Europe, after being encouraged to open factories in the country by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher but Brexit has thrown that into doubt, prompting consternation in Tokyo. Sunday’s announcement also comes as the firm continues to deal with the fallout from the arrest of its former boss Carlos Ghosn, which has clouded the outlook for the automaking alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi. Source
  2. (Reuters) - One of Nissan Motor Co’s top executives has resigned, further rattling the Japanese automaker’s management team as it broadens an investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct. PHOTO: Jose Munoz Jose Munoz, widely considered as a close ally to Ghosn and a possible successor to lead the automaking partnership between Nissan and France’s Renault SA, had been a “person of interest” in Nissan’s widening internal investigation. The 53-year-old, who was Nissan’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on Friday. In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had “elected to resign” from the company, effective immediately. It declined to offer details. He becomes the latest executive casualty since Nissan in November removed Ghosn as chairman and fired representative director Greg Kelly. The resignation deals another blow to the Japanese automaker which is grappling with the scandal at a time when it is struggling to shore up profitability in the United States and expand aggressively in China. Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the United States by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018. “Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus,” Munoz said in his post. “As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.” People with knowledge of the issue have said that Munoz, who had been placed on a leave of absence earlier in the month, had not been co-operating with the internal investigation. Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with Renault, remains in custody in a Tokyo detention center since his initial arrest in late November. Ghosn has been indicted on two counts of under-reporting his income, and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen ($17 million) to Nissan. The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault, where Ghosn remains CEO and chairman. Munoz joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its significant expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the United States and posted record sales. Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years. Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months. Source
  3. SAO PAULO/TOKYO (Reuters) - A Rio de Janeiro apartment containing cash, art works and personal belongings of Carlos Ghosn has emerged as the latest battleground between the indicted former Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) chairman and the automaker. Ghosn is seeking to retrieve “personal belongings, documents, cash, objects and art pieces” from the beachfront apartment, which Nissan owns. The company says the home could contain evidence of financial misconduct, according to its filing in a Brazilian court last week. The legal dispute has been fierce in recent days, showing that Ghosn and Nissan are not just clashing in Japan, where Ghosn was arrested last month and was formally charged on Monday, but around the world. Ghosn’s family obtained a favorable injunction last week that was swiftly overturned. A source at Nissan in Brazil said on Monday afternoon the Ghosn family still did not have access to the apartment. Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported the family obtained another favorable court decision on Monday but a Nissan spokesman said the company believed this was incorrect. The previously unreported court papers seen by Reuters show the extent of the legal dispute between Ghosn and Nissan over access to the apartment, one of several around the world he has been able to use. Nissan alleges Ghosn, who had been hailed for bringing the company back from the brink of bankruptcy, under-reported his income by tens of millions of dollars and diverted corporate funds for personal use. The Rio apartment contains three safes that Nissan has yet to open, according to the court filings. The carmaker found them when it did an audit of the apartment following Ghosn’s firing, the company said. The apartment also has “designer furniture, artwork and decorative objects,” it said. It was purchased by a Nissan subsidiary in late 2011 following the carmaker’s launch of a factory in the nearby city of Resende. “INCALCULABLE RISK” The apartment was bought on expectations that Ghosn’s trips to Brazil, where he was born and maintains citizenship, would “become more constant” after the factory opened, Nissan said in the filings. The apartment is in the Copacabana neighborhood, on a road directly facing Rio’s famous beaches. An apartment in the same building was listed online for 12 million reais ($3.07 million). Monday’s indictment in Japan puts the ball back in the court of Nissan’s alliance partner, Renault (RENA.PA). The French company, which owns a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, is preparing for a Dec. 13 board meeting likely to consider Ghosn’s future as its chairman and chief executive. Renault has so far stopped short of dismissing Ghosn, while repeatedly demanding access to the findings of the Nissan internal investigation that led to his arrest. Court proceedings in Brazil started on Nov. 29, when a lawyer for Ghosn asked a judge to grant him access to the Rio apartment. Nissan says allowing him access would “represent an incalculable risk of destruction of potential evidence of crimes allegedly committed.” Ghosn has so far been denied access by Brazil’s courts. A lawyer for Ghosn, Jose Roberto de Castro Neves, told Reuters he was unaware of the existence of the three safes and that it was “absurd speculation” that they could contain evidence of wrongdoing. “He’s a very smart guy,” de Castro Neves said in a brief phone interview. “If he had done something wrong, he would never leave it in the apartment.” Tokyo prosecutors indicted Ghosn on Monday for under-reporting his income and also charged the automaker, making Nissan culpable for the alleged financial misconduct. Ghosn was arrested in Japan on Nov. 19 and is being held in a Tokyo jail. Ghosn has not made any statement through his lawyers in Japan but has denied the allegations, according to media reports. Source
  4. TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo prosecutors are due to indict ousted Nissan Motor (7201.T) Chairman Carlos Ghosn as well as the automaker itself on Monday, sources said, intensifying scrutiny of CEO Hiroto Saikawa’s role in the financial misconduct scandal. Ghosn was arrested on Nov. 19 on suspicion of conspiring to understate his compensation by about half of the actual 10 billion yen ($88 million) over five years from 2010. Nissan has said the misconduct was masterminded by the once-celebrated executive with the help of former Representative Director Greg Kelly. Tokyo authorities plan to re-arrest the two executives, the sources said, declining to be named as they were not authorized to speak with media. Media reports have said the fresh crime was for three additional years of under-reported income. The two would then remain in custody without bail. Nissan itself is also likely to be indicted for making false statements in an annual report, they said. A separate source said there were concerns running through the company that Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa and others may also be indicted. Asked about a potential indictment of the company itself, Nissan said only that it was cooperating with the prosecutors’ office and providing them with information related to misconducts. Analysts have said it could be difficult for Nissan to avoid blame, whether it turns out that other executives had knowledge of Ghosn’s misconduct, or that the company lacked adequate internal controls. “Normally, if it’s falsifying the financial filings, the company as well as the perpetrator is charged. That’s not surprising. It’s to be expected,” said prominent lawyer and former prosecutor Nobuo Gohara. “Now suddenly the issue of CEO Saikawa becomes bigger. It becomes difficult to overlook Saikawa’s role in all of this. That becomes the main focus now.” Ghosn and Kelly have not made any statement through their lawyers, but Japanese media reported that they have denied the allegations. Calls to Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, at his office went unanswered, and the Tokyo prosecutors’ office said it could not comment on individual cases. NISSAN ON OFFENSIVE Nissan has stepped up its offensive against the executive once credited for rescuing the company from near-bankruptcy. The company said on Sunday that it was seeking to block access by Ghosn’s representatives to an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, citing a risk that the executive may remove or destroy evidence. A Brazil court has granted Ghosn access to the property, owned by Nissan, in the Copacabana neighborhood, but the company said in a statement that it was now petitioning a higher court to reverse the decision. Nissan has also blamed Ghosn for a series of infractions including personal use of company funds. While not commenting on the possibility that other executives may have had knowledge or been involved in the wrongdoing, it has acknowledged a need to improve its governance. Nissan’s board last month agreed to create a special committee and take advice from an independent third-party group about how to improve governance and oversight of director compensation. The arrest of Ghosn and Kelly also shook the foundations of the Renault-Nissan alliance and stunned the auto industry. Ghosn remains chairman and chief executive of Renault SA (RENA.PA). The key question is whether and how the ownership structure of the alliance might change. Ghosn, under pressure from the French government, had pushed for a deeper tie-up including a possible full merger between Renault and Nissan, despite strong reservations at Nissan. Some Nissan executives have long been unhappy with what they see as Renault’s outsized influence over the Japanese automaker, which dwarfs Renault in vehicle sales. Renault holds around 43 percent of Nissan, while Nissan has a non-voting 15 percent stake in the French partner. Source
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