GE China, a unit of the U.S. conglomerate General Electric, is expected to be the first foreign company to announce the setting up of a subsidiary in China to conduct leasing business, said a report in the China Daily newspaper on March 18.

Other foreign industrial conglomerates, including Cisco and Caterpillar, are also interested in opening their own leasing operations in China, although they may go for other options, said China Daily.

A source at Shanghai Rental Trade Association (SRTA) told China Daily that International Financial Corp (IFC) and the Netherlands-based Rabobank are jointly planning to buy a stake in the Shanghai-based New Century Finance Leasing Co Ltd., one of China's biggest finance lease companies. The transaction is expected to be completed later this month, the source said.

Experts estimate that equipment purchases in relation to the 2008 Beijing Olympics alone could total 20 billion yuan (U.S. $2.4 billion).

Despite the demand, China's leasing market has remained embryonic. For example, lease financing only accounts for 3 percent of all equipment acquired by Chinese manufacturing enterprises, compared with more than 30 percent in the United States, said Qu.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials