Associates First Capital Corp. said Tuesday that it has an agreement to buy the Canadian consumer finance arm of Beneficial Corp., a move that will make it the largest foreign-owned consumer finance company in Canada.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but analysts estimated that Dallas-based Associates paid about a 25% premium for Beneficial Canada's operations.
Wilmington, Del.-based Beneficial expects to record a net after-tax gain of more than $100 million for this quarter, versus a loss of $12.8 million the quarter before, the company said.
Beneficial Canada has 105 offices and a $767 million portfolio that include mortgages, personal loans, private-label credit cards, and sales finance receivables.
Analysts applauded the move, saying that Associates should be able to wring efficiencies out of Beneficial's operations.
The company will be able to profitably manage the branches "not by cutting expenses but by pushing through their corporate culture," said Katrina Blecher, analyst with Gruntal Securities. "They have a low-cost structure, because of their ability to centralize and strong underwriting capabilities."
In addition, Associates can translate relationships with Beneficial customers into high-ticket home equity loans, she said.
Adding Beneficial's subsidiary will increase Associates' Canadian presence to 240 offices and portfolio to $1.95 billion.
"Beneficial has a branch distribution network that serves consumers in all 10 provinces. Its diverse portfolio and emphasis on quality customer service fit well with our existing consumer and commercial finance operations in Canada," Keith W. Hughes, Associates chairman and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.
"Beneficial has experienced management and an excellent employee base that we are pleased to welcome to our organization," Mr. Hughes said.
Once the transaction closes, about half of Associates' business there would be consumer finance, with commercial financing and leasing making up the remainder, a spokesman said.
The transaction is part of Associates' strategy to expand its North American lending operations, the spokesman said. The company is continuing to look for acquisitions, he noted.
There will be some overlap between Beneficial and Associates in Canada, the spokesman said, especially in Ontario. But it is too early to tell how many offices will be closed. Associates will keep Beneficial Canada's management, he said.
Associates began beefing up its Canadian consumer lending operations last year, when it purchased Superior Acceptance Corp., which added 91 branches.
The Beneficial purchase is scheduled to close this quarter, the Associates spokesman said.
For Beneficial, the transaction represents another step in a major reengineering plan announced in October. The company had said it would put its Canadian and German operations on the block, as well as real estate holdings in New Jersey and Florida.
Beneficial is talking with several organizations about the sale of its German operations, a spokesman said, and is hoping to announce a sale early this year.
Beneficial announced on Jan. 30 a contract for the sale of 580 acres of land in northern New Jersey. The company also has accelerated the pace of sales of plots on Harbor Island, a 170-acre residential island off of Florida, the spokesman said.
The reengineering will allow Beneficial to concentrate on its more profitable United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland operations, and finance its three million-share equity repurchase program, the company said.
After the sale of Beneficial Canada, the company will have $17.2 billion in managed receivables.