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Element Will Consider Additional Acquisitions

July 02, 2015, by Paul Clinton - Also by this author

Hudson
Hudson

With the ink barely dry on Element Financial Corp.'s agreement to acquire GE Capital Fleet Services, the company's chief executive said Element may pursue other fleet management companies such as Donlen Corp. or LeasePlan.

Steve Hudson told analysts in a June 29 conference call that Element will pursue acquisitions to grow the company's revenue as Element integrates GE Capital Fleet with his existing fleet management operation. The combined company, which now includes the PHH Arval fleet business, would be the largest fleet management company in the U.S.

Hudson later said he's eyeing Donlen, which was acquired by Hertz Global Holdings Inc. in 2011, and LeasePlan Corp., which is based in the Netherlands and claims to be the largest global fleet management company. LeasePlan's owners, Volkswagen and a German bank, considered selling the company earlier this year to an investor group.

"The fleet industry is still going through consolidation, whether it be Hertz and its ownership of Donlen, or LeasePlan which is owned by VW,” Hudson told Bloomberg. "Those assets will eventually come to the marketplace, and once we get the integration substantially advanced, I think we can be a participant."

Element wouldn't make a bid for Donlen or LeasePlan for at least another year, because it must integrate GE Capital Fleet, Hudson said. A deal for Donlen would fall into the $1 billion to $1.5 billion range.

After acquiring GE's fleet business, Element will manage more than 1 million vehicles in North America with total assets of $17 billion.

Element financed its acquisition of GE's fleet unit with a credit line of $8.5 billion, using subscription receipts, subordinated convertible debentures, and preferred shares totaling $3.5 billion in new debt. The transaction closed with a 7-to-1 leverage ratio and 20 basis points at closing.

Element would likely not need to raise additional capital to finance new "tuck-in" acquisitions, said John Sadler, senior vice president of corporate affiairs and investor relations.

A consolidation of resources is expected following the GE deal. Element will reduce three outsourcing facilities to one, and senior executives expect substantial procurement savings from the merger. Hudson expects a smooth merger due to Element's prior merger with GE's fleet business in Canada and familiarity with the unit's customer-facing and back-office systems.

The merger is also expected to grow Element's service revenue beyond 12 percent annually, Hudson told analysts.

"This is not the end of the growth story," Hudson said on the call. "We are leveraged at 4.3 (to 1) with our bank covenant. There's room to grow on that."

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