Over the last four years GE Capital has also been making a little-noticed foray into Europe. It has made a series of acquisitions, individually modest but cumulatively large, as part of a plan to construct a broad-based financial services company. It has snapped up the credit card businesses of Burton and House of Fraser, the vehicle fleet services business of Avis Europe, and parts of Barclays' Mercantile Credit operation.
This year there have been nine purchases, as many as in the previous four years, though most were to fill gaps in the company's existing financial services and insurance businesses. The buys included three businesses belonging to Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken of Sweden, an Avis car financing business in Italy, and Consolidated Insurance Group, a credit insurer. Last week, GE Capital announced a foray into telephone selling of insurance in the UK.
Probably the highest-profile deal was last year's agreement to manage the aircraft portfolio of GPA, the troubled Irish aircraft leasing group. This included an option to buy the business at a future date.