updated 7/3/2006 2:50:59 PM ET 2006-07-03T18:50:59

The board of Renault SA on Monday approved opening talks with General Motors Corp. over a possible new alliance with the French automaker and Nissan Motor Co. if the U.S. company wants the discussions, Renault said.

"Discussions with General Motors concerning a potential alliance could be started as soon as General Motors makes the proposal," a statement from Renault said.

Renault and Nissan could buy up to 20 percent of outstanding shares in GM, the Kyodo news agency reported over the weekend. Details of the possible investment plan surfaced after billionaire investor and major GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian proposed on Friday that the troubled American carmaker join the Nissan-Renault alliance.

French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said on Europe-1 radio that he met several times over the weekend with the CEO of Renault and Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, to talk about the possible deal.

The French government, which holds 15 percent of Renault, wants to ensure “that transparency is perfectly respected” in any deal, Breton said.

It remains unclear how much the investment would cost.

If it materializes, the deal would create a huge auto alliance with annual output exceeding 15 million vehicles and commanding nearly one-quarter of global market share, Kyodo said.

GM has been engaged in an extensive turnaround plan in North America amid declining profits, high labor costs and growing competition from Asian automakers. The automaker announced plans last year to close 12 plants by 2008 and earlier this week said 35,000 hourly workers had agreed to retire early or accept a buyout offer.

Renault owns a 44.4 percent stake in Nissan, which in turn owns a 15 percent stake in Renault.

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