Arval has confirmed the acquisition of GE Capital’s European leasing business, which makes the company Europe’s largest leasing operator and number three in the UK, fewer than 3000 vehicles behind Leaseplan.

The European fleet size of the combined companies is 930,000, with the addition of 160,000 vehicle assets, amounting to around ?2.4bn (£1.7bn), across 12 European countries, making it larger than previous European leader Leaseplan.

Arval’s UK chief executive Benoit Dilly told BusinessCar that the additional 28,000 UK units will add up to a combined 145,000 fleet. In the recent BC50, Leaseplan was number two in the UK at 147,276 units.

“Next year, regardless of the acquisition, our plan was to grow. We hope next year we will have grown the size of the fleet,” said Dilly. “The objective is to retain customers.”

“The main benefit for our customers is that we are putting together two companies in very good shape, not one strong one and one weak one,” he continued, predicting that the integration project will run for two years. “We want no disruption for customers – Arval ones or future Arval ones – and we don’t want one single customer on both sides to say they haven’t been given the service they expected because we are putting together two entities.”

Arval previously announced in June it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with GE Capital to acquire the fleet management arm by the end of the year.

Former GE Capital boss Gary Killeen is moving across to Arval as a sales director for the existing portfolio, and also working on the integration process. Dilly said it is too early to predict what will happen with GE’s UK headquarters in Sale, Manchester.

Dilly said that the main target for growth will be the SME market, where leasing penetration is still below 50%. “It’s very difficult but there is still plenty of business,” he said. “Fleets of 25 to below 100 don’t have a proper approach or strategy – they do it by response to a need and sometimes buy, sometimes [do personal contract hire] from a dealer or do something different. There is a huge opportunity to bring contract hire to these markets.”

He also said Arval will be looking to capitalise on GE’s area of strength.”It was focused on business in
mid-corporate, not SME or very large, and Arval has a wider scope of size of business,” he said. “We will be very complementary in the mid-market segment.”