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LEASING: Buy-out and recession reshapes top 25 leasing firms chart (continued)

Date: 17 March 2009

The economic downturn well and truly hit the leasing industry in 2008 with companies having to consolidate and declare residual value write-downs, although there was one notable exception, writes Tom Webster

New number two

In any other year, the focus would be firmly on the fact that the order of the top three in the top 25 leasing firms chart has shuffled.

Leaseplan has taken over second spot, boosting its fleet size by nearly 19,000 over the past 12 months. This is an especially large jump given it added fewer than 2000 cars to its fleet in the previous year.

The next 12 months could also bring interesting developments for the new number two. For not only did its parent receive a 1.5bn Euro handout from the Dutch government in November, but negotiations are now underway that would see the 50% shareholder Volkswagen buy up the other half of Leaseplan from the other shareholders Mubadala and Olayan.

Leaseplan's near-19,000-unit increase is very much the exception rather than the rule for the big four because Lombard completes the belt-tightening trend displayed at the top, trimming its fleet by 5960 to 109,445.

Lombard's reduction and Arval's increase of nearly 6500 closes the gap between fourth and fifth and brings about the next major change in the top 10. In boosting its numbers Arval has not only put the brakes on the breaking-away of the top four, but has also leapfrogged Masterlease.

Arval's growth, though, goes against the trend. Companies are looking to trim down their fleet size and, crucially, reduce risk. One company spokesman said: "My managing director would have a heart attack if we'd added the residual risk of several thousand vehicles to the fleet."

With credit still hard to come by despite the ever-lowering interest base rate of interest, some fleets may find that the decision to cut their fleet is taken out of their hands.