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Defensive Ghosn rules out quitting Nissan

From Agence France-Presse| June 21,2007

Carlos Ghosn, the legendary chief executive who rescued Nissan Motor Corp, on Wednesday refused to resign and defended his record after net profits slipped for the first time under him.

"As long as I have the shareholders' trust and the employees' trust, I will remain," Ghosn told reporters after a shareholders conference in Yokohama.

Ghosn, who was parachuted into Nissan in 1999, was earlier confronted by a small-level shareholder who called on the company's onetime saviour to quit over the last earnings report.

"A failure? The result of fiscal year 2006 is one of the best results that Nissan has ever done," Ghosn told the shareholder.

Nissan's net profit fell 11.1 percent in the fiscal year to March 31, the first time the company failed to meet its targets since the arrival of the globetrotting Ghosn, who also took the reins of France's Renault in 2005.

Ghosn, who has earlier talked of a "performance crisis" at Nissan, told the shareholder to put the problems in perspective.

"The problems we are facing today are very small compared to the problems we had in 1999," he said.

"The negative articles we are reading today are a piece of cake compared to those in 1999, 2000 and 2001," he said.

"Nissan is still a hugely profitable company, let's not forget about that," he said, while adding, "I understand and I share your frustration."

Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent, was the first foreigner to head a major Japanese company and won over a loyal fan base for his quick results and strong work ethic.

When he took over, Nissan was a "keiretsu," a clogged group of Japanese businesses which are closely linked and often own equity in one another.

His first revival plan called for slashing purchasing costs by 20 percent in three years, goals that were all met a year ahead of schedule.

After last year's earnings, Nissan has taken new measures such as shaking up its management and restructuring its commercial operations in Japan.

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