Ghosn Smacks Down Reports He Wants Saturn or Opel

Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday smacked down published reports in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News that he was negotiating to buy Saturn or GM’s Opel division.

Ghosn said neither Nissan nor Renault (Ghosn is CEO of both) are “in any particular negotiations about a specific project,” though he didn’t directly deny that he’d been approached about Saturn.

Indeed, it was first reported in last month that GM’s negotiators had approached Renault about possible interest in Saturn.

Ghosn commented after The Wall Street Journal reported that GM and Renault were in talks about Saturn. Bloomberg News reported that Nissan was in talks about a joint venture bid for Saturn along with Penske Automotive.Group. Inc.

A source close to the proceedings told BusinessWeek that confusion on the newswire and daily newspaper resulted from talks between Penske and Renault-Nissan, as well as between private equity firm Red Oak Partners, which is looking at acquiring Saturn, and Renault-Nissan about the French and Japanese automakers supplying Saturn with vehicles after 2011 when GM has said it won’t guarantee supplying cars and SUVs to Saturn showrooms.

The source told Businessweek he did not believe Renault-Nissan has ever looked seriously at taking an equity stake in Saturn.

Ghosn spoke after Renault’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday and also said the French automaker isn’t interested in acquiring GM’s German Opel unit or any other European brand.

“Our priority is managing our operations and returning to positive cash flow,” he said, citing debt that stood at almost 8 billion euros ($10.6 billion) at the end of last year.

Renault rival Fiat is in process of taking control of Chrysler, and negotiating to buy Opel from General Motors.

Speculation that Ghosn would buy something as a defensive move against Fiat’s buying spree has been rampant.

Ghosn has said in the past that he wanted to strike an alliance with a North American automaker. But those opportunities seem to have evaporated.

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