Hitachi Takes on Poland's Top Bank in Race for Auto-Leasing Firm

(Bloomberg) -- Hitachi Ltd. is seeking to buy Polish leasing and vehicle-fleet operator Prime Car Management SA, potentially setting up a bidding war between the country’s largest lender and the Japanese manufacturing conglomerate.

A local leasing and fleet-management unit of Hitachi offered to acquire all shares of Gdansk-based Prime Car at 12.09 zloty each, according to a filing. That would value the company at 143.9 million zloty ($38.3 million), and compares with a bid of 11.38 zloty a share from the leasing arm of PKO Bank Polski SA last month.

Hitachi has been retooling in recent years to expand in digital services, including a $2.8 billion investment program in the so-called Internet of Things that involves acquisitions as well as developing its own technology. Prime Car’s Masterlease brand rolled out a wholly web-based vehicle-subscription service in 2017 that it says enables customers to obtain a car in less than 15 minutes.

Prime Car shares plunged 86 percent from their market debut in 2014 through August, when they hit a record low of 6 zloty. While the company hasn’t posted a net loss since 2011, free cash flow has been negative and debt has tripled in the past four years. The stock gained 9.8 percent to 12.9 zloty as of 12:11 p.m. in Warsaw in the steepest jump since Nov. 8, based on closing prices.

A PKO Leasing spokeswoman declined immediately to comment on Hitachi’s bid. Calls to Prime Car’s investor relations spokesmen weren’t answered.

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