Fleet News

Woodchester deal will put GE Capital on top

GE CAPITAL Fleet services could become the largest contract hire operator in the UK if its parent GE Capital is successful with a £550 million bid for Woodchester Investments. Irish finance house Woodchester operates around 7,500 vehicles - principally in the UK and Eire - but also in Denmark and Portugal.

Earlier this year Woodchester agreed to buy the remaining 49% of Lookers Planned Motoring - now known as Woodchester Corporate - from the Lookers dealer group after initially purchasing 51% of the operation in 1993. The addition of Looker's fleet alone would be sufficient to move GE Capital Fleet Services (which includes Avis Fleet Services, Leasecontracts, BRS Car Lease and Cochranes) to the number one spot among UK contract hire companies.

The company was in second position, just 2,000 vehicles behind Lex Vehicle Leasing in Fleet News's 1997 Top 40 Contract Hire Company league table. Woodchester is also responsible for financing many cars indirectly through third parties such as contract hire companies and retail car dealers, and has extensive interests in equipment leasing.

While the majority of its motor business has a closer fit with GE Capital Motor Finance in Edinburgh, Woodchester Corporate probably has more synergies with GE Capital Fleet Services. The leasing concern became an immediate takeover target after troubled parent company French bank Credit Lyonnais announced its intention to dispose of non-core businesses earlier this year.

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