General Electric Co.'s GE Capital unit said it has agreed to acquire 80% of Service Bank von 1954 GmbH, a bank based in Cologne, Germany, that issues a private-label debit card called Yesss.

Pending regulatory and board approvals, the remaining 20% would stay in the hands of Metro and Kaufhof Group, a retailing conglomerate with more than 2,000 stores in 11 countries.

GE Capital, the leader in private-label card services, handling 80 million retail cardholder accounts, said the entry into Germany will be key to its European expansion strategy.

"With increasing consumer acceptance of both credit and debit cards, the German retail financial services marketplace is undergoing considerable change," said Christopher Mackenzie, president of GE Capital-Europe.

"Our knowledge of consumer attitudes and experience in the U.S. and Europe will benefit Service Bank in its distribution methods, development of innovative banking products, loyalty schemes, and other services."

Service Bank, with assets equivalent to $486 million, provides consumer finance, insurance, and other services. It has 36 branches in Kaufhof department stores and more than 200 automated teller machines.

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