November 22, 2018 / 3:18 AM / 21 days ago

CORRECTED-Nissan board to meet for ousting Ghosn as future of alliance in focus

(Corrects paragraph 4 and second bullet to show Japan’s industry minister, not finance minister, is meeting France’s finance minister)

* Board meeting planned on Thursday afternoon - Nissan official

* Japan industry minister to meet French finmin to discuss matter

* Nissan shares flat, in line with broader market

By Maki Shiraki and Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co will hold a board meeting on Thursday to oust Chairman Carlos Ghosn after the shock arrest of its once-revered leader, starting what could be a long period of uncertainty in its 19-year alliance with Renault.

The Franco-Japanese alliance, enlarged in 2016 to include Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, has been rattled to its core by Ghosn’s arrest in Japan on Monday, with the 64-year-old group chairman and industry star accused of financial misconduct.

Ghosn had shaped the alliance and was pushing for a deeper tie-up including potentially a full Renault-Nissan merger at the French government’s urging, despite strong reservations at the Japanese firm.

Amid growing uncertainty over the future of the alliance, Japan’s industry minister and France’s finance minister are due to meet in Paris on Thursday to seek ways to stabilise it.

Renault has refrained from removing Ghosn from his position, although he remains in detention along with Representative Director Greg Kelly, whom Nissan also accuses of financial misconduct.

“For me, the future of the alliance is the bigger deal,” one senior Nissan official told reporters on Wednesday, when asked about Ghosn’s arrest. “It’s obvious that in this age, we need to do things together. To part would be impossible.”

Nissan’s board meeting will be held sometime after 4:00 p.m. (0700 GMT) at its headquarters in Yokohama and the company is likely to issue a statement afterwards, the official said, requesting anonymity as the details were confidential. Renault executives are expected to join by video conference.

Nissan said on Monday an internal investigation triggered by a tip-off from an informant had revealed that Ghosn engaged in wrongdoing including personal use of company money and under-reporting of his earnings for years.

Japanese prosecutors said he and Kelly conspired to understate Ghosn’s compensation at Nissan over five years from 2010, saying it was about half the actual 10 billion yen.

Ghosn and Kelly have not commented on the accusations and Reuters has not been able to reach them.

The Asahi Shimbun said on Thursday, quoting unnamed sources, that Ghosn had given Kelly orders by email to make false statements on his remuneration. Tokyo prosecutors likely seized the related emails and may use them as evidence, the report said.

The Yomiuri, Japan’s biggest-circulation daily, cited unnamed sources as saying that Nissan’s internal investigation found that Ghosn had since 2002 instructed that about $100,000 a year be paid to his elder sister as remuneration for a non-existent “advisory role”.

Shares in Nissan were flat, in line with a broader market , ahead of the board meeting. (Reporting by Maki Shiraki and Chang Ran Kim; Writing by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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