HSBC Equipment Finance,
Deutsche Leasing, UniCredit Leasing and Raiffeisen Leasing among
companies pushing new boundaries.

 

As the spectre of the recession begins
to lift, European leasing companies are gearing up for a determined
push across the continent and beyond, Leasing Life can
reveal.

In the most obvious sign yet that the outlook
for equipment finance is more positive, a number of lessors have
revealed to Leasing Life ambitious plans for growth.

The fact all this expansion activity is taking
place against a backdrop of a European leasing industry beset by
falling volumes of new business (see pages 6-7) is
remarkable, and is an undeniable statement of commitment to the
market from some of leasing’s biggest names.

While for some, including UniCredit Group,
expansion is taking place in the context of a widespread
restructuring of business divisions, for others, such as Crédit
Agricole Leasing, it is part of a concerted effort to lease more in
stable markets.

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By GlobalData

Even companies like HSBC Equipment Finance
(HSBCEF) are making such moves. Until now steadfastly a UK-only
player, HSBC’s London and Birmingham-based leasing arm is now
turning to Europe to fulfil its expansion agenda.

 

Spate of integrations

Managing director Richard Carter told
Leasing Life that once the company’s new IT system had
been broken in at the operation, the group would begin to consider
which elements could be exported to form the basis of European
leasing businesses.

Meanwhile, a spate of integrations among large
leasing companies has resulted in a flurry of fresh enthusiasm for
expansion.

Raiffeisen Leasing International, the leasing
business of Raiffeisen International (RI), is planning growth for
this year after two years of risk-driven lending constriction.
Aiding it in its ambitions will be a much greater level of access
to capital, caused by RI’s newly confirmed merger with Austrian
parent Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich.

Another merger – the incorporation of the Bank
of Scotland (BoS) into the Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) – has created
growth opportunities that should not be overlooked amid the
balance-sheet wreckage of old BoS property loans.

Despite LBG’s annual statement predicting a
year of “consolidation and rationalisation” for big-name asset and
motor finance properties such as Lex Autolease and Black Horse, it
is quietly building a successful combined invoice discounting and
leasing enterprise, Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance, in its corporate
markets division.

Another player which last year showed little
appetite for growth, Deutsche Leasing, having recently entered
negotiations to merge its car and consumer finance arms, said last
month it is looking to “boost [its] direct sales and vendor
business”.

Leasint, the result of a merger between
Sanpaolo Leasint and Intesa Leasing, was revealed last month to be
the top player by new business volume in the Italian leasing market
(see pages 6 and 7), overtaking UniCredit Lease Group
which has held the top spot for a number of years.

All this comes at time when governments are
turning to banks, and ultimately, to their leasing divisions, to
increase investment in the SME sector.

The Portuguese government has earmarked up to
£2bn (€2.2bn) for investment in SMEs during 2010, while the March
Budget from Britain’s ruling Labour Party wanted Royal Bank of
Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group to plough £94bn into the
sector.

Other leasing companies, meanwhile, supported
by well-capitalised parents, have also embarked on the expansion
trail. Crédit Agricole Leasing has recently expanded its presence
in the Italian market. After its French parent company acquired the
Northern Italy-based Cariparma and Friuladria banks from the Intesa
Group, the network now includes the leasing business of those two
banks, targeting Cariparma and Friuladria customers. This has
resulted in a big expansion in the bank’s leasing capability.

 

881% increase

According to recent Assilea figures, Crédit
Agricole Leasing Italia has jumped from 54th to 10th position by
business volume between 2008 and 2009, with lending up 881% to
reach €581m .

The lessor is also boosting its presence in
Poland with its subsidiary, Europejski Fundusz Leasingowy, which
last year was confirmed as the country’s largest leasing company
with a new business volume of PNL2.7bn (€696m ).

It was also revealed last month that Close
Asset Finance (CAF), part of Close Brothers, has seen its market
share increase by up to 80% over the past year. Close Brothers’
specialised financing unit, of which CAF forms a part, was praised
last month for helping to hold up the profits of its parent
bank.