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GE Plans Credit Card Unit in China

September 14, 2004|From Bloomberg News

General Electric Co. plans to start a consumer credit business in China within a year to serve a burgeoning middle class, GE Consumer Finance Chief Executive David Nissen said.

"The Chinese consumer is starting to become far more comfortable with credit," Nissen, 53, said. "There are lots of debit cards in China. Now credit cards are becoming a status symbol."

GE Consumer Finance, the biggest private-label credit card issuer, with operations in 41 countries including Hungary and Thailand, will start by providing financing for customers of retailers, Nissen said. The Stamford, Conn.-based unit is talking with several Chinese banks that are potential partners, he said.

China, the world's most populous country, with 1.3 billion people, is attractive to foreign consumer lenders because the potential market is huge.

HSBC Holdings, Citigroup Inc. and American Express Co. are selling consumer credit services in China with local partners.

General Electric Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt is relying on consumer finance as a growth engine as he works on expanding units that outpace economic growth and pares businesses such as insurance that have lower returns on equity.

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