Fleet News

Industry threatens backlash over PHH bid to buy Harpur

PHH Vehicle Management Services could face a challenge to its takeover of Harpur UK's fuel card operations as unease about the deal spreads through the fleet industry. At least one major player is believed to be considering making representations to the Office of Fair Trading and several others have privately expressed disquiet after the acquisition was announced last week.

Although the $186 million deal would give PHH only 35% of the UK fuel card market, it leaves the US-owned giant in almost total control of the multi-brand fuel card market - restricting fleet operators' choice to the PHH network or one of the major oil companies' cards.

A PHH spokeswoman denied the company had a virtual monopoly in the multi-brand sector and said corporate purchasing and charge cards were taking an increasing share of the fleet purchasing market. GE Capital is one of a number of key players who are poised to make a challenge. A GE spokesman said: 'We are considering our position in relation to submissions to the Office of Fair Trading about this acquisition.'

An OFT spokesman said the closing date for representations was December 9 and unless the period for consideration was extended, a decision would be announced by the DTI on or before December 23.

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