FEBRUARY 27, 2003
Renault and the French
Renault has been owned or controlled by the French government since 1945 when Louis Renault was accused of collaboration because his factories had produced war material for the Germans. The company was partially privatised in 1994 and there was major restructuring, but by 1999 the company was strong enough to take control of the debt-ridden Nissan. The government shareholding is currently worth around $2.8bn and there have been suggestions recently that the politicians may decide to sell because of the increasing competition in the European car markets where Renault is strongest. The problems which has affected Fiat will not have gone unnoticed in Paris. The only thing that the government wants to avoid is Renault falling into foreign hands.
The speculation follows the sale of Lagardere's shares in Renault, worth around $130m. Lagardere is moving away technologies and increasing its involvement in the media sector. The sale means that the Matra Auto operation faces an uncertain future and there have been suggestions that Renault may be planning to sell off the business, which builds car production lines and does sub-contract production work.