Fleet News

DTI gives go-ahead for PHH takeover of Harpur

THE Department of Trade and Industry has given the green light to PHH Vehicle Management Services' takeover of Harpur UK. Several major leasing companies - led by GE Capital Fleet Services - had challenged the $186 million deal, claiming it would deliver a virtual monopoly of the multi-brand fuel card market and two-thirds of the total fuel card market to the merged PHH-Harpur.

They said this would lead to a dramatic increase in the cost of fuel cards to UK fleets and a decline in service standards as clients were left with little scope for shopping around. PHH operates the AllStar fuel card and Harpur operates both Overdrive and Dialcard fuel cards.

But their protests were ignored by the Office of Fair Trading, and President of the Board of Trade Margaret Beckett has decided not to refer the merger to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The merger will also see a joining of the UK's two largest fleet management specialists, PHH Vehicle Management Services and Fleet Cost Management, but even their combined fleet sizes of 275,000 vehicles represent a small proportion of the company car market.

PHH strategic marketing director Rosemary Wells said the company was pleased with the OFT's clearance for the merger, a decision which reinforced PHH's argument that there were several different ways of buying fuel in the UK, with fuel cards accounting for only 40% of corporate fuel purchases. GE Capital Fleet Services director of corporate communications Geoff Becque said he was astonished with the Office of Fair Trading's decision, which effectively left one company with 95% of independent fuel cards and two-thirds of total fuel card purchases.

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