Renault, Nissan say no immediate interest in alliance with Chrysler or others

The Renault-Nissan auto alliance is not interested in buying DaimlerChrysler's loss-making Chrysler division, despite exploring a North American partnership last year, a Nissan official said Wednesday.

Tokyo-based Nissan, 44 percent owned by Renault SA of France, is always open to new partnerships, but not right now because it is focused on its own financial woes, spokeswoman Madoka Soma said.

Carlos Ghosn, head of both automakers, entered unsuccessful partnership talks with Detroit-based General Motors Corp. last year and had said a North American ally would be a good balance for the company.

But after Nissan reported a 22 percent slump in earnings in the October-December quarter, priorities have changed.

"As Mr. Ghosn has said, the company right now is as it is today because it has its own problems inside and we're not going outside to look for the solutions," Soma said. "We're not in a rush for a partner."

The auto industry has been pondering the fate of Chrysler since last week when its German parent, DaimlerChrysler AG, said it was putting all options on the table in dealing with its troubled U.S. unit. Speculation about potential partners, or even a buyer, jumping in to use Chrysler's expansive parts and dealership network to gain entry to the U.S. market has ranged from a tie-up with Nissan and Renault to talk of a link with Hyundai or even GM.

While announcing earnings earlier this month, Ghosn said Japan's No. 3 automaker faced a "performance crisis" that must be fixed as "soon as possible." The company was also forced to cut its full-year profit forecast.

Renault Chief Financial Officer Thierry Moulonguet has since told investors in London that the Renault-Nissan duo isn't interested in Chrysler in any manner, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier Wednesday.

DaimlerChrysler's fourth-quarter earnings plunged 40 percent on weaker demand at the Chrysler unit, where sales fell 7 percent. Chrysler lost about $162.8 million (EUR124 million) in the period.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based parent company, the world's No. 5 automaker, has meanwhile announced plans to eliminate 13,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, or about 16 percent of its work force, and close a plant in the U.S. state of Delaware in a bid to shave costs, reports AP.

Should Renault and Nissan have no interest, it raises the question of how much money DaimlerChrysler might be able to even ask for Chrysler. Estimates range from US$5 billion to US$13.7 billion (EUR3.8 billion to EUR10.4 billion), but Daimler-Benz AG paid US$36 billion for the American icon in 1998.

In a bid to strengthen their global market position, Nissan and Renault entered talks last year with GM about forming a three-way alliance. But the talks came undone after Nissan and Renault declined to pay a premium for reaping what GM said would have been a disproportionate share of the benefits.

Earlier this month, Renault SA posted a modest rise in second-half profit, but a sag in sales threatened to undermine a recovery promised by Ghosn.

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