Wells Fargo Agrees to Acquire GE's Railcar Leasing Business

  • Bank's leasing subsidiary to become industry's second biggest
  • GE also agrees to sell tank cars to Berkshire Hathaway unit

Wells Fargo & Co., the world’s largest bank by market value, agreed to buy the bulk of a railcar- and locomotive-leasing unit from General Electric Co. as the industrial giant retreats from financial services.

The deal will make Wells Fargo’s First Union Rail division the second-largest railcar and locomotive lessor in North America, adding more than 77,000 cars and about 1,000 locomotives to its existing fleet, the bank said Wednesday in a statement. Simultaneously, GE sold tank car assets and repair facilities to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Marmon Holdings. Terms weren’t disclosed for either transaction.

“We’re pleased to sell our railcar business and, separately, our tank car fleet and railcar repair shops, to buyers that are long-term players in the industry committed to expanding the businesses,” Keith Sherin, chief executive officer of the GE Capital finance unit, said in a statement from the company.

The sales add to a series of GE divestitures as CEO Jeffrey Immelt steers the Fairfield, Connecticut-based firm back to its industrial roots. He’s expanding the manufacturing units making products such as jet engines and oilfield equipment while hiving off about $200 billion of financial assets.

Awaiting Approval

The transactions dismantle what was General Electric Railcar Services LLC, a $4 billion-asset business that leases freight and tank cars and offers loans and maintenance services. GE had weighed selling it at least twice since 2008, and ended an auction in 2011 after concluding that the lessor was faring well as freight shipments recovered.

The sale of tank car assets was completed Wednesday, while the repair-facilities transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, according to GE’s statement. The leasing-unit deal is expected to close by the end of March 2016, subject to regulatory approvals. GATX Corp. is the largest global railcar lessor.

GE also said Wednesday that it reached a deal to sell a $3.6 billion loan portfolio to Apollo Global Management’s MidCap Financial. The assets, including corporate and real estate loans in the U.S. and Europe, represent the bulk of the Mubadala GE Capital joint venture.

The GE Capital lending arm has shrunk considerably since the sale plan was announced in April, as the company has reached deals to unload units including an $8.7 billion transportation finance division, an $8.5 billion health-care lender and an online bank with $16 billion of deposits.

Wells Fargo and Blackstone Group LP helped the industrial giant kick off its finance overhaul in April by agreeing to buy real estate assets valued at about $23 billion. Berkshire is Wells Fargo’s largest shareholder.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the description of the additional fleet in the second paragraph.)

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