Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

Frederic Sanchez, president of MEDEF international and chairman of Fives Group’s executive board, right, with Francios Touazi, vice president of MEDEF. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The largest French business delegation to tour a country is visiting Riyadh in a two-day trip to meet Saudi ministers.

The delegation is composed of 100 representatives from 80 French companies.

“We are here to tell them (the Saudi government), look, French business wants to be more present in Saudi Arabia and … to be part of Vision 2030. Tell us, (in order for us) to know precisely where you are expecting us to invest,” Frederic Sanchez, president of MEDEF International and chairman of Fives Group’s executive board told Arab News.

“I have to say, the delegation I am leading is the biggest I have ever led, which means French companies think they might benefit. It’s a win-win approach, by benefitting from transformations in your country, and the big ‘giga-projects’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is launching,” he added. 

Sanchez emphasized the delegation was listening to the needs of the Saudi people and government in helping develop the country’s business sector “because we understand that these transformations need us to evolve.

“We understand that you want more local content, you want us to invest locally, create jobs for young people, and to train them to be future leaders of the economy and business,” he added.

The vice president of MEDEF International, Francois Touazi, said: “We’d like to express our very strong commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia in this transition. We are fully committed to supporting the country and we strongly believe there is a win-win partnership between French and Saudi companies.”

He noted that French companies had solid expertise in many sectors, including tourism, health care and entertainment. 

“We’d like to illustrate and demonstrate to Saudis our full commitment. France and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners, we’d like to consolidate and strengthen the economic dimensions of our statistic partnership,” he added.

Training young people might be a challenge, but one they were willing to take, he said.

“We are sure we can support Saudi Arabia in the training of the youth,” said Touazi.

“In that area, we have expertise,” added Sanchez, alluding to work in Bahrain in the aluminum industry. The French government has put in place a department which helps companies to set training programs overseas, he explained. 

“We know how to do it, and we willing to do it here, because this is way to differentiate ourselves in front of the competition. We know that Saudi Arabia is a competitive country and we need to be competitive,” Sanchez added.

Companies from France, research centers and universities with their expertise will work with the Kingdom “because there is much to do for our partnership. By teaming up, France and Saudi Arabia can do a lot of things, not only in the Kingdom but also in the region, the Middle East and Africa, to develop this win-win partnership,” said Touazi.

The last official French business delegation to Saudi Arabia was led by then-Prime Minister Manual Valls in 2015; since then plenty has changed. “What makes me amazed is the spectacular change in the country in the recent years. You can see it visually. It’s impressive,” Sanchez said.


Nissan’s new CEO willing to be fired if no turnaround at Japanese giant

Updated 18 February 2020

Nissan’s new CEO willing to be fired if no turnaround at Japanese giant

  • Makoto Uchida, who took over the top job in December, put his job on the line at the automaker’s shareholders’ meeting
  • Uchida pleaded with shareholders to be patient while he comes up with a plan by May to recover from crumbling profits

YOKOHAMA: Nissan’s new chief executive said on Tuesday he would accept being fired if he fails to turn around Japan’s second biggest automaker which is grappling with plunging sales in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn.
Makoto Uchida, who took over the top job in December, put his job on the line at the automaker’s shareholders’ meeting, where he faced demands ranging from cutting executive pay to offering a bounty to bring Ghosn back to Japan after he fled to Lebanon.
Nissan’s worsening performance has heaped pressure on Uchida, formerly Nissan’s China chief who became its third CEO since September, to come up with aggressive steps to revive the company.
On Tuesday, Uchida, who was repeatedly heckled by shareholders, said he was ready to face dismissal if he failed to improve profitability at the company, which is on course to post its worst annual operating profit in 11 years.
“We will make sure that we steer the company in an effective way so that it is visible in the eyes of viewers. I will commit to this: if the circumstances remain uncertain you can fire me immediately,” he said.
Uchida, 53, did not give a timeframe for improving Nissan’s performance.
The new boss must prove to the board he can accelerate cost-cutting and rebuild profits at the 86-year-old Japanese giant, and that he has the right strategy to repair its partnership with France’s Renault, sources have told Reuters.
Uchida pleaded with shareholders to be patient while he comes up with a plan by May to recover from crumbling profits and a corporate shake-up following Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 over financial misconduct charges.
“If you can be patient a little bit longer, on a day-to-day basis you will be able to sense we are changing,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, some shareholders demanded more clarity about Uchida’s plan.
“I just want to know what the plan for recovery is. At the moment, the share price has dropped again, and the value of the company has plummeted,” said a 70-year-old former employee who owns shares in the company.
“If this is the situation, part of me thinks that we would be better off with Ghosn ... If we don’t get a clearer vision of the path the company is taking, it will be a worry.”
Nissan’s shares are trading around their lowest level in more than a decade following its latest earnings.
Last week, Nissan cut its dividend outlook to its lowest since the 2011 financial year, after dwindling car sales drove the company to post its first quarterly net loss in nearly a decade.
Shareholders gathered at the extraordinary meeting in Yokohama to vote in new directors including Uchida and Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta.
Their appointments highlight a changing of the guard at Nissan, as shareholders were also voting on motions for former company stalwarts, CEO Hiroto Saikawa and COO Yashuhiro Yamauchi, to leave their board director positions.