GE Capital, already the nation's top commercial lending and leasing company, could announce a deal as early as this week to expand that business further by purchasing Transamerica Financial Corp., analysts said.

The unit was put on the block in March by Aegon NV, which bought the unit's parent, Transamerica Corp., last year for $9.7 billion.

While Aegon is hoping to focus on core businesses, GE Capital is well positioned to "apply expertise in house and get some bang for its buck" with the purchase, said Michael Schroeder, chief investment officer and analyst for Wasmer, Schroeder & Co., Fort Myers, Fla.

GE Capital is apparently flexing its muscle at a time when banks that might be interested in bulking up are forced to sit on the sidelines. "GE has better acquisition currency than banks do, given stock prices," said George Bicher, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown.

GE Capital is the financial services subsidiary of Fairfield, Conn.-based Electric Corp. The unit took in $15.986 billion in revenues and $4.44 billion in earnings in 1999.

"GE is big in equipment finance and specialty finance is a high profit margin business," Mr. Schroeder said.

Transamerica Leasing is a major lessor of transportation equipment including standard containers, refrigerated containers, tank containers and domestic, rail trailers and chassis - which can be carried on ships or rail cars, or hauled by trucks. The unit has approximately 400 depot locations, offices, and other facilities in 47 countries on six continents. It is headquartered in Purchase, N.Y.

This acquisition would add to GE Capital's existing container leasing operations, as well as supplement GE's auto, truck aircraft, and commercial business equipment leasing units.

Crain's Chicago Business reported Monday that the sale was imminent. Aegon is reportedly seeking a premium over the $1.94 billion market value of the Transamerica Finance operations. Crain's said the price could be as high at $3.8 billion.

The Dutch insurer would be shedding a noncore business and keeping Transamerica's life insurance and real estate services units that are more in keeping with Aegon's main businesses in life insurance and annuities. The acquisition of Transamerica made Aegon the third-largest life insurance firm in the U.S.

Transamerica Finance Corp. had $12.8 billion of owned and serviced receivables and revenue-earning assets in the first quarter of 1999, the last for which the company reported financial results separate from Aegon. The income from commercial lending during that quarter was $18.6 million. The leasing operation had operating income of $12.9 million in that quarter.One analyst said an announcement could come this week, noting that a GE representative told him the firm had no plans to make any announcements before a meeting Tuesday with analysts in Stamford, Conn. The sale of the Transamerica lending and leasing unit would put Aegon in the ranks of financial institutions that are streamlining business.

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