Bank Austria AG confirmed Friday that it is selling its Mercurbank unit to General Electric Capital Corp.

Bank Austria officials declined to disclose the exact price, but said the company would get more than one billion Austrian schillings, or about $83 million.

The transaction is expected to close in January.

Bank Austria added in a statement released in Vienna that the two companies will look to cooperate on future consumer credit ventures in Central and Eastern Europe.

The sale is subject to the approval of banking supervision authorities and Austria's cartel court, said a spokesman for the bank in Vienna.

With 33 outlets in Austria, and assets of some 9 billion schillings, or $750 million, Merkur Bank leads the country in providing consumer credit, automobile financing, and leasing.

Merkur has 440 employees, and 100,000 customers.

Bank Austria is the country's largest bank, with assets of 568.4 billion schillings, or $47 billion.

It has total deposits of 450 billion schillings, or $37.5 billion, as of Sept. 30.

The bank has 380 branches and 1.5 million customers.

"It was an offer that we could not refuse," deputy chief executive Gerhard Randa told news agencies.

Leasing Business Retained

The deal was struck after four months of negotiations. Bank Austria will remain in the leasing business through its own branch network.

GE Capital, a U.S. financial congolomerate, is a leading provider of car financing, consumer credit, mortages, and aircraft leasing.

The group had $109.7 billion in assets and equity capital of $9.5 billion as of Sept. 30.

The acquisition is the second made recently by GE Capital as part of a move to expand its consumer credit and leasing operations in Europe.

In August, the company acquired Finax Group of Stockholm. Finax includes one Norwegian and four Swedish consumer finance companies which provide consumer credit, primarily in the form of unsecured personal loans and credit cards.

"We're taking a very niche-oriented approach to our expansion in Europe," said a GE Capital spokesman. He declined to speculate on additional acquisitions in Europe or elsewhere outside the United States.

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