Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

Jose Munoz, who was the automaker’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, had been a ‘person of interest’ in Nissan’s widening internal investigation. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2019

Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

  • In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had ‘elected to resign’ from the company, effective immediately
  • The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault

TOKYO: One of Nissan’s top executives has resigned, further rattling the Japanese automaker’s management team as it broadens an investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.
Jose Munoz, widely considered as a close ally to Ghosn and a possible successor to lead the automaking partnership between Nissan and France’s Renault, had been a “person of interest” in Nissan’s widening internal investigation.
The 53-year-old, who was Nissan’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on Friday. In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had “elected to resign” from the company, effective immediately. It declined to offer details.
He becomes the latest executive casualty since Nissan in November removed Ghosn as chairman and fired representative director Greg Kelly.
The resignation deals another blow to the Japanese automaker, which is grappling with the scandal at a time when it is struggling to shore up profitability in the US and expand aggressively in China.
Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the US by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018.
“Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus,” Munoz said in his post.
“As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.”
People with knowledge of the issue have said that Munoz, who had been placed on a leave of absence earlier in the month, had not been co-operating with the internal investigation.
Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with Renault, remains in custody in a Tokyo detention center since his initial arrest in late November.
Ghosn has been indicted on two counts of under-reporting his income, and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily shifting personal investment losses worth ¥1.85 billion ($17 million) to Nissan.
The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault, where Ghosn remains CEO and chairman.
Munoz joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its significant expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the US and posted record sales.
Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years.
Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.


Crude prices surge as OPEC+ agrees to extend cuts

Updated 12 min ago

Crude prices surge as OPEC+ agrees to extend cuts

  • The eagerly awaited gathering comes as oil exporters globally are hurt by low prices

DUBAI: Crude oil prices on Friday surged on international markets after the OPEC+ alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, reached a deal to continue supply limits at their present historic level.

After a week of negotiation, a virtual meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was expected to take place on Saturday to formally seal the agreement to keep combined cuts at 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for at least another month.

Last-minute worries about Iraq, which had held out over committing to its share of the cuts, were overcome with a pledge by Baghdad to stick to the agreed limits and to make up any shortfall in the coming months, according to an official from one of the OPEC delegate countries.

In a speech in Washington, D.C., US President Donald Trump praised the work of OPEC+ in rebalancing the oil market. “We saved that industry (US oil) in a short period of time, and you know who helped us? Saudi Arabia and Russia and others. We got them to cut back substantially,” he said.

The deal struck in April to cut an unprecedented 9.7 million bpd, reinforced by an extra 1 million bpd voluntary cut by Saudi Arabia and smaller amounts by the UAE and Kuwait, has been credited with pulling global oil markets back from the brink of collapse.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped nearly 6 percent in European trading, to stand above $42 per barrel. Oil prices have more than doubled since “Black Monday” on April 20, when West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the American benchmark, fell briefly into negative territory largely because of trading technicalities.

WTI was trading at more than $39 on Friday, raising the possibility that some of the US production lost due to well shut-ins and corporate failures might come back onto the market.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman was due to address the OPEC+ meeting in his capacity as co-chairman of the joint ministerial monitoring committee (JMMC).

“The conditions right now warrant hopefully successful meetings. Coordination is under way to hold OPEC and OPEC+ meetings tomorrow afternoon,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was quoted as saying by Reuters.

According to an official, the prince was expected to stress the need for vigilant monitoring by OPEC+ of supply limits.

UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei, urged producers to improve their compliance with agreed cuts.

“As a representative of the UAE, I find it disappointing and unacceptable that some of the largest producers with capacity like (Saudi Arabia) and Russia comply 100 percent or more while other major producers do less than 50 percent,” he wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.

Iraq and Nigeria have been regarded as the biggest laggards on compliance in the OPEC+ partnership, both arguing that their financial needs required them to sell as much oil as possible. Last week Nigeria indicated its willingness to adhere to the limits.

Wrangling with Iraq continued into Friday until a breakthrough was finally reached, and Baghdad promised to abide by the terms of the original deal and stick to compliance agreements.

Monthly meetings of OPEC’s JMMC will take place until the end of the year to monitor compliance levels among OPEC+ countries, and to assess the overall state of the market.

There has been no decision as yet on whether Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will continue the extra 1 million bpd cuts, which could expire at the end of this month.

Oil-market sentiment was also lifted by a surprise fall in American unemployment, taken as a sign that the US economy could recover more strongly than expected.

Global oil exporters have come under intense pressure this year as the pandemic stifles the beginning of a recovery in energy investment that had started to materialize.

At the start of the year, global energy investment was expected to rise 2 percent in 2020, its biggest growth in six years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) had predicted. Instead, the Paris-based organization now expects global investment in energy to plunge by 20 percent this year — the equivalent of $400 billion.

 

(With Reuters)