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1.10.2003

Fortis Lease Group acquires BA/CA Asset Finance Ltd., a UK subsidiary of Bank Austria Creditanstalt AG

Fortis strengthens its position on the European leasing market.

Today, Fortis and Bank Austria Creditanstalt AG (BA/CA) have reached an agreement under which BA/CA has sold its UK leasing activities, BA/CA Asset Finance Ltd, to Fortis Lease, in a cash transaction valued at EUR 37.7 million (GBP 26 million).

Karel De Boeck, CEO of Fortis Network Banking said: “This important acquisition is in line with the strategy outlined by Fortis a few days ago.  It will further Fortis’ ambitions to provide a complete range of financial services to European companies with cross-border activities.  We welcome BA/CA Asset Finance’s experienced team, which is highly specialized in leasing solutions.  Our new and existing customers will benefit from BA/CA Asset Finance’s service capabilities and experience together with the financial strength of Fortis.”

Friedrich Kadrnoska, Deputy CEO of BA/CA said: “This sale is part of our strategic policy of focussing on growth in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). We have an extensive presence in CEE and aim to strongly expand our network in this growth market. We are confident that joining Fortis Lease will provide BA/CA Asset Finance with new opportunities to grow in a changing environment, and I trust that the skills developed by the BA/CA team will in turn help Fortis Lease Group achieve its strategic objectives on the UK and European markets.”

BA/CA Asset Finance is based in Glasgow and has an experienced staff of 57 who specialize in providing tailor made solutions to a wide range of customers including vehicle hire companies, dealership groups, manufacturing and service companies, consumers and introductions from third party vendors and brokers.  Customers currently number around 10,300 and, over the past five years the Risk Asset portfolio has grown from GBP 260 million (EUR 377 million) to GBP 641 million (EUR 929 million).  As of 31 December 2002, BA/CA Asset Finance Ltd Equity shareholders’ funds amounted to GBP 16.1 million (EUR 23 million). Net profit for 2002 was GBP 2 million (EUR 2.9 million).  In future BA/CA Asset Finance will trade under the name of Fortis Lease UK Ltd and all its staff will be integrated into Fortis Lease UK Ltd.

The stated aim of Fortis Lease Group is to achieve a top 5 position amongst European cross border leasing companies by 2008.  The BA/CA Asset Finance acquisition will bring Fortis Lease’s total assets from EUR 4 billion (GBP 2.8 billion) to EUR 5 billion (GBP 3.4 billion) and its staff to 361 FTE’s.  It marks an important step in its 5-year development plan.  The Plan focuses on growing the lease portfolio of its entities in all 10 countries in which Fortis Bank has Business Centres.  Fortis Lease Group is now present in the Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom.  Furthermore, the Plan also seeks to implement a European Vendor Leasing Business, to control costs, and to enhance IT.  Through product expertise, knowledge of the international leasing market and international presence, Fortis Lease Group is able to meet the growing European demand of its customers.  The acquisition of BA/CA Asset Finance will move Fortis Lease Group from 19th to 14th place in the rankings of the largest leasing companies in Europe.  Amongst those lessors with a European coverage strategy, Fortis Lease Group moves up from 7th to 6th.

This operation has received all the necessary approvals from the respective regulatory authorities.

Bank Austria Creditanstalt
Bank Austria Creditanstalt is the largest Austrian bank, with total assets of some EUR 145 billion (GBP 100 billion) and about 30,000 employees in 11 countries. As part of the Germany-based HVB Group, Bank Austria Creditanstalt runs the leading banking network in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Bank Austria Creditanstalt is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The bank's strategy is clearly focussed on expansion of its CEE network.

Fortis
Fortis is an international financial services provider active in the fields of banking, insurance and investment. With a market capitalization of EUR 19.5 billion/GBP 13.4 billion (30/09/2003) and around 69,000 employees, Fortis ranks in the top 20 of European financial institutions.
 
In its home market, the Benelux countries, Fortis occupies a leading position and offers a broad range of financial services to individuals, companies and the public sector. Outside its home market, Fortis concentrates on selected market segments.
 
Fortis is listed on the exchanges of Amsterdam, Brussels and Luxembourg and has a sponsored ADR programme in the United States.

Fortis in the United Kingdom
In the UK Fortis Bank provides a full range of services to middle market companies including Acquisition Finance, Traditional Lending, Current Account banking, Treasury, Trade Finance, Invoice Discounting/Factoring and leasing. For international companies the bank also provides bespoke cross-border financial and cash management solutions through an established network of business centres and 3,000 branches.
The UK head offices are based in the City of London and the bank's expanding regional network includes offices in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading and Southampton.
Fortis is also active in insurance, with Fortis Insurance Limited.  The company is dedicated to the intermediary market and provides personal lines (private motor, household and travel) as well as commercial package products.  Fortis Insurance Limited has offices in Eastleigh and Gloucester.

Exchange rate: GBP 1 = EUR 1.45

Contacts:

Bank Austria Creditanstalt

Press
Peter N. Thier
Tel.: +43 (0)5 05 05-52371 ;
E-Mail: peter.thier@ba-ca.com 

Investor Relations
Gerhard Smoley
Tel.: +43 (0)50505-58803
E-Mail: gerhard.smoley@ba-ca.com

Fortis

Press  
Brussels:
32 (0) 2 565 35 84 Utrecht: 31 (0) 30 257 65 49
Investor Relations  
Brussels:
32 (0) 2 510 53 37 Utrecht: 31 (0) 30 257 65 46