2 Dec 20

Hitachi Capital Mobility Solutions confirms European growth strategy and announces merger

If Hitachi Capital didn’t pursue its acquisition strategy this year, it wasn’t because of the pandemic. “We wanted to properly embed earlier acquisitions and integrate management teams,” says Nick Salkeld, the company’s COO. In 2021, acquisitions will resume – and Hitachi Capital itself plans to merge with another large financial services group creating an even stronger organisation, Mr Salkeld announced.

Hitachi Capital Corporation (HC) may not be one of Europe’s biggest leasing and mobility companies yet, but it has a well-established and long-term strategy to get there.

Targeted acquisitions

The Japanese company has been using a policy of strategic targeted acquisitions to create a strong platform across the continent, both in terms of geographic spread and the range of its offer.

In fact, Hitachi Capital intends to evolve from a predominantly full-service leasing company to a fully-fledged mobility operator, of Europe-wide prominence.

Underlining the importance of that strategic shift is the fact that our conversation is not just with Mr Salkeld, the Chief Operating Officer and a Supervisory Board Member of Hitachi’s Mobility Solutions Division, but also with Lilly Santosh, who was appointed in April of this year to the role of European Operations Manager, focusing strongly on Hitachi Capital’s transition to mobility.

Remarkable expansion

Hitachi Capital’s European expansion is less than a decade old. Here’s a brief overview:

  • In 2014, Hitachi Capital acquired CorpoFlota in Poland, rebranding it Hitachi Capital Polksa (HCPL) in 2015.
  • In 2017, HC acquired Noordlease in the Netherlands, which in turn acquired LeaseVisie, another Dutch leasing company.
  • In 2018, HCPL acquired Planet Car Lease in Poland, and Noordlease was rebranded Hitachi Capital Mobility Netherlands (HCMN). HC also acquired Maske Fleet in Germany and with it Maske Langzeit-Vermietung in Austria.
  • In 2019, HC expanded into the mobility market with the acquisition of 49% of MobilityMixx in the Netherlands. And at the end of last year, stepped into Belgium when HCMN acquired Mobilease.

Considering that brisk pace, 2020 has been a lot slower, with only the acquisition of Fraikin’s Commercial Fleet Leasing portfolio for Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary under their belt.

Nine European countries

“There were no further acquisitions not because of COVID-19, but because we wanted to properly embed those earlier acquisitions and to integrate the various management teams,” says Mr Salkeld.

Taking stock of the current situation, that means that Hitachi Capital is now present in nine European countries: the UK, Germany and Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, Czechia and Slovakia, and Poland and Hungary. These are key markets, representing two-thirds of Europe’s entire leasing volume.

“We’re at around 125,000 vehicles under management today. Our growth has come both through acquisitions, and organically,” says Mr Salkeld. In fact, as he points out, there’s even an organic aspect to the acquisitions themselves: the Dutch one opened up access to the Belgian market, and the German one did the same for Austria.

Nordics and Switzerland

“Our strategy remains to acquire vehicle leasing activities where it fits, and to go forward step by step – never forgetting the customer.”

And that strategy will resume in full effect from April 2021: “From the new financial year, we will focus our acquisition strategy on the Nordics and Switzerland. And from 2022, we will target Southern Europe, notably the important markets in France, Spain and Italy.”

Geography is just one aspect of Hitachi’s strategy for growth in Europe. The other is services – in particular, the expansion into mobility and electrification, says Ms. Santosh: “Our focus is and remains the provision of leasing and additional services, in a setup that is as lean and easy as possible for the customer. But of course, we are adapting to new trends. For example, in the Netherlands we see great potential for mobility services, while in Germany there are serious opportunities for growth in the electric vehicle (EV) segment.”

Complete package

“However,” stresses Mr Salkeld, “Our starting point will always be our leasing and fleet management capabilities, as a platform for offering a complete and comprehensive financing and service package.”

Hitachi Capital’s customer target groups include both SMEs and large international corporations, but there is significant variation per country. “It’s clear, though, that our international expansion is making us an increasingly relevant and interesting player at international account level.”

Mitsubishi Group

Talking about the international level, Hitachi Capital itself will be going through some interesting changes next year, Mr Salkeld reveals. “At present, we’re still operating under different names within Europe. We want to make life as easy as possible for our customers, and in that respect, we’re happy to announce that in April 2021, Hitachi Capital Corporation plans to merge with Mitsubishi UFJ Leasing (MUL). the leasing and finance arm of MUFG, Japan’s largest banking group.”

This merger will enhance Hitachi Capital’s international – even global – capabilities and will also have an impact on the company’s branding and marketing. “like Hitachi Capital, MUL has clearly expressed its willingness to become a global leader in the leasing business, and both consider Europe to be a key region for expansion, and that is an important signal for future investments and for our expansion strategy.”

So, 2021 will likely be a year in which Hitachi Capital accelerates its rise to the top of Europe’s leasing and mobility industry – even if in the new year it may also get a new name.

One thing that will not change is the core quality that motivates the company’s continued rise: customer focus. “In every initiative, action or new development, we ask ourselves: So what? The answer to that question has to be a clear benefit for the customer. Asking that question helps us keep our focus on the trust that we’ve earned with our present customers, and the qualities that we have for acquiring new ones.”

Authored by: Steven Schoefs