GE Will Hand the Keys to Its Car Fleet Business to Element, BNP Paribas

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric  (GE) said on Monday that it has agreed to sell the bulk of its car fleet business to Canada's Element Financial and France's BNP Paribas, striking separate, but linked, deals valuing the operations at about $10 billion.

Element Financial will pay $6.9 billion for GE's U.S., Mexican, Australian and New Zealand fleet operations. The deal includes $6 billion of fleet assets, valuing the operation at about 1.15 times so-called earning assets, a ratio that Element described as "consistent with ... previous fleet management acquisitions."

BNP Paribas, acting through car-leasing unit Arval, will buy about $2.6 billion of vehicle assets. Both GE and BNP declined to put a headline price value on the sale as it is yet to be presented to local employee councils, but the transaction would be worth about $3 billion, based on the asset value multiple paid by Element.

The disposals are the latest in a spate of sales of assets owned by GE Capital, which is being wound down by its Fairfield, Conn.-based parent.

"We continue to demonstrate speed and execution on our strategy to sell most of the assets of GE Capital," GE Capital chairman and CEO Keith Sherin said in a statement. "We are on track to execute sales of $100 billion by the end of 2015 and expect to be substantially done by the end of 2016.

GE Capital Fleet Services provides commercial car and truck financing and fleet management services, with more than 1.5 million leased, serviced and managed vehicles around the world. The sales to Element and Arval will result in net gains of about $1.8 billion for GE and leave it with just its Japanese car leasing operations still on the books.

Element and Arval said on Monday that the two transactions were linked and would serve to drive further growth across their car-leasing partnership, called the Element-Arval Global Alliance.

Element said it expects the deal to boost its earnings by about 20% once it realizes annual savings from the acquisition of $90 million to $95 million. The acquisition will more than double the value of Element's fleet assets, increasing them to about C$13 billion ($10.5 billion), by adding C$5.3 billion of new cars in North America and Mexico and C$1.8 billion in Australian and New Zealand. The deal is the second between Element and GE in the past two years after the Canadian buyer snapped up GE's Canadian fleet management operations for $550 million in June 2013.

Element will partly fund the latest acquisition using C$2.7 billion of net receipts from a sale of debt and preferred shares that closed at the end of May. A further C$5.9 billion will come from a new syndicated loan that will extend its total senior credit facility to $8.5 billion. That loan will also be extended so it matures three years after the closing of the transaction to buy the GE Capital business.

BNP said that its part of the transaction would boost Arval's vehicle count by about 160,000, or 25%, across 12 countries, with three-quarters of the new vehicles located in France, Germany and the U.K.

"This transaction further illustrates [BNP's] active strategy to strengthen the leadership of its specialized activities in Europe," said BNP's deputy chief operating officer Thierry Laborde in a statement.

The deals are expected to complete in the third and fourth quarters of 2015.

BNP Paribas shares traded Monday at €54.60 ($60.71), down €3.03, or just over 5%, in a European market badly affected by the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone. Shares in GE traded in the after-hours market, ahead of their Monday opening, at $26.80, down $0.30, or just over 1%. Element shares closed on Friday at C$18.87, down less than 1% on their Thursday close.

David Marcus contributed to this report.

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