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Abbey National to Sell Unit to GE

February 4, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ British lender Abbey National said Tuesday it would sell the consumer finance unit of its First National business to a division of General Electric Co. for 848 million pounds ($1.40 billion) in cash.

The deal would add 2.1 million active customers to GE’s consumer finance business in the United Kingdom. First National employs approximately 1,400 people and provides loans through intermediaries such as brokers and retailers.

``The acquisition of First National represents another significant step in the development of our U.K. consumer finance business,″ said Charles Alexander, president of GE Capital Europe. ``It fits well with our existing businesses and enhances our presence.″

The sale to GE, which is headquartered in Fairfield, Conn., had been expected. Abbey National said last summer that it was looking to sell noncore assets, and First National was believed to be near the top of the list.

Abbey National has been hit hard by losses in its wholesale banking division, which led to the departure last July of chief executive Ian Harley. Harley had overseen the shift toward lending to companies, away from Abbey’s traditional focus on mortgages.

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