Only two companies are still standing in the bidding war to acquire GE’s $5 billion Japanese commercial lending business. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Shinsei Bank each submitted bids in November (along with UFJ Lease & Finance and Mizuho Bank-affiliate Century Tokyo Leasing), and both have a history of working with GE as it scales back its GE Capital financing business.
Shinsei Bank, whose board includes Chris Flowers of financial group J.C. Flowers & Co., bought GE’s consumer-finance operations in 2008 for $5.4 billion. GE was likely selling this arm of the business off due to increased Japanese regulations.
In July, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG), Japan’s second-largest bank by revenue, bought GE’s European private equity financing business for about $2.2 billion.
GE’s current offering is made up of several divisions, including one that focuses on direct lending to industrial companies purchasing heavy machinery. It also offers vendor financing with a focus on helping smaller businesses. It does not include GE’s aviation financing business.
Usually an auction process such as this ends when the seller picks a single “preferred bidder” out of the many potential buyers based on the most attractive bid. In this case, however, GE has said it will continue to negotiate with both Shinsei and SMFG on specific terms of a potential final agreement. This agreement is likely to come in the next few weeks.
GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt has said he intends to divest GE of its global assets in order to help the company refocus on the industrial segment, including its energy business. GE is set to shed most of its finance unit, buy back up to $50 billion shares, sell about $30 billion in real estate assets, and divest most of GE Capital operations over the next two years.