Fleet News

Call for OFT to veto Harpur UK takeover

LEADING contract hire companies have joined forces to challenge PHH Vehicle Management Services' bid for Harpur UK's fuel card operations. As reported two weeks ago the fleet industry has become increasingly uneasy about the influence the $186 million deal will give PHH over the fuel purchasing market.

GE Capital Fleet Services, VELO and Highway Vehicle Leasing are calling for the Office of Fair Trading, which is investigating the takeover, to derail the deal. They are claiming the merger would give PHH almost total control of the UK multi-brand fuel card sector and more than two thirds of the total fuel card market.

GE Capital Fleet Services director of corporate communications Geoff Becque said: 'The lack of competition could lead to a dramatic increase in the cost of fuel cards to British businesses and a decline of service standards at a time when more and more companies are turning to fuel cards to control costs.' PHH maintains the merger would only give it 35% of the UK fuel card market, which it claims is becoming more fragmented as other forms of corporate purchasing cards are used to buy fuel.

An OFT spokesman said: 'We have general guidelines, but we assess each case individually and if we have concerns, we will narrow or broaden the market we are examining accordingly.' He said the Office aimed to deal with all cases within eight weeks of being referred, but it was unlikely to reach a decision before Christmas.

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