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Nissan shareholders vent spleen at management

World News | Published:

Tensions have flared as shareholders in the car maker met executives at an extraordinary meeting.

Japan Nissan

Nissan shareholders have unleashed their anger at the Japanese car maker’s management for crashing stock prices, zero dividends and quarterly losses after the scandal-ridden departure of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

At the company’s extraordinary shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday, a succession of speakers demanded the company quickly fix diving car sales, and said its executives should give up their pay and work harder to repair a battered brand.

Ghosn, a superstar executive who had led Nissan for two decades, was arrested in November 2018. He was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges in Tokyo when he skipped bail late last year and escaped to Lebanon.

New Chief Executive Makoto Uchida apologised to shareholders for having “allowed the misconduct” of Ghosn and promised better governance, transparency and financial results, but pleaded for more time.

He said a turnaround plan would be announced in May, which one shareholder immediately criticised as too late.

“We are in a disastrous situation,” Mr Uchida said of the Ghosn scandal.

“It was shocking, and I denounce it.”

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Carlos Ghosn Nissan
Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, seen here during an interview in Lebanon (Meika Fujio/Kyodo/AP)

Mr Uchida is among the four directors whose election was up for decision at the meeting held at a conference centre in Yokohama, near Tokyo, where Nissan is headquartered.

Mr Uchida was tapped in December to replace Hiroto Saikawa, who was Ghosn’s successor.

Mr Saikawa tendered his resignation last year after allegations surfaced about his own dubious personal income. His resignation becomes final at the end of the shareholders’ meeting.

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One shareholder asked if Mr Saikawa was giving up his retirement pay.

Another asked why Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of French alliance partner Renault SA and a Nissan board member, was seen leaving a previous shareholders’ meeting in a Toyota.

Mr Senard apologised and said it was a mistake that had upset him as well.

Global sales of Nissan vehicles have plunged. Nissan recorded red ink for the quarter through December, the first such quarterly loss in 11 years.

Mr Uchida said Nissan had prized technology, such as electric vehicles and automated driving, which would be featured in planned models.

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