First Investors Merge with Aquiline Approved by Shareholders

Aquiline Capital Partners LLC’s acquisition of First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. has been approved by the latter group’s shareholders.

About 6.2 million or more than 95% of First Investors total shares were voted in favor of the $100 million deal. Approval only required a yes vote by at least two-thirds of the shares by October 1. The First Investors shareholders will be paid $13.87 cash for each of the shares they own, 39% more than the stock’s closing price on September 25. Prior to that date, First Investors’ stock price had increased 32% in the past year.

Aquiline Capital focuses on the financial services industry, while First Investors offers portfolio acquisitions, indirect and direct lending, and third-party servicing.

GM’s Opel a Downer Down Under

General Motors’ Opel brand just can’t get no loving. Not only do Americans and Europeans not want to drive Opels, but neither do the mates of Australia.

GM can’t really be blamed for trying to offload its Opel cars in Down Under. After all, GM’s thought, what can a bunch of inmates and kangaroo wranglers know about automobiles? It turns out that they know that they prefer to drive Mazdas, Toyotas, and the Foster Lager of the car world, the Holden.  Car and driver says that one in eight of all cars sold in Australia is a Holden.

Opel’s leadership believes the Australian car market is ready for some new types of vehicles. Talking about this, Opel’s Bill Mott, a jar of apple sauce in his hand, said, “We think—and when I say ‘we’ I speak for both myself and Holden management—that our [customers are] looking for a European and, in particular, German brand experience. And [Holden], by definition, can’t cover [those customers]. Either we walk away from that market as General Motors, or we attack it. We’re bringing Opel to attack it, and we’re doing it in concert with Holden.”

Bajaj Auto Riding High in India’s Rough Conditions

Though Bajaj Auto has not moved the number of units it had projected it would, the Indian company has made the right moves to protect its financials.

New product launches and strong exports are what keep Bajaj Auto in the black, despite India’s domestic market continuing to be sluggish. Its new three-wheeler diesel variations lifted the company’s domestic sales by three percent, which is remarkable considering the overall vehicle-sales rate in the nation remained stuck at zero percent.

Even more impressive, was Baja Auto’s export success. Year-over-year export sales leapt by 35% as it moved 1.5 million units in FY12.

Advance Auto Parts Expects Disappointing 3Q Earnings

Things are looking less-than rosy for Advance Auto Parts. After warning that its third-quarter earnings per share could drop more that 14 percent when it releases its quarterly report on November 8, its shares decreased by nearly 4% to come to a tentative rest at $65.78.

Overall, the auto part retailer said that it will report a price-earnings drop of 0.5 in third-quarter revenue due to slower sales along with more promotions and advertising to help it survive in an overall weak market. Monday’s 3.9% drop means that the Roanoke, Va. Company’s stoke price is nearing its 52-week low of $60.87. This is nearly one-third off its 52-week high of $93.08. 

Talking about Advance Auto Parts’ performance, CEO Darren Jackson said, “Despite these improved sales trends, we were still unable to achieve our profitability expectations and fully mitigate the weak consumer demand within several of our markets, especially in colder-weather markets.”

Honda: Full Speed ahead in China

Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito said that the company is not going to let outside political troubles derail the carmaker’s investment plans in China. The ongoing territorial dispute between China and Japan over a group of islands helped push sales of Japanese auto brands in China off a cliff as they plummeted by 41% in September.

Though Honda’s sales in the large, red nation dropped to their lowest point since May 2011, Ito says there is no reason to think that the current political fisticuffs will last any longer than six months, nor are they a reason, he said, to abandon the plan to expand in the world’s largest auto market.

Speaking from his Tokyo office, Ito said, “We will see the good uplifting effect from the Fit series. So around the world, I believe 2013, 2014, 2015 will be years of growth.” Fit is Honda’s go at creating a popular small vehicle.

Satoshi Yuzaki, Tokyo-based general manager at Takagi Securities Co., agreeing with the small-car strategy, said, “In choosing a car, what every consumer looks out for is whether it’s environmentally friendly or not and how efficient a car is, so Honda’s strategy to focus on smaller models is appropriate. The growth in emerging markets is incomparable to that in developed markets, so Honda’s target to get half of its sales from emerging markets is in line with the industry’s growth.”

First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. to be Purchased by N.Y. Private Equity Firm

First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. has agreed to be purchased by the private equity firm Aquiline Capital Partners LLC for $100 million in cash. Following Santander Consumer USA’s recent purchase of DriveTime Automotive Group, this is the second purchase of an auto finance service in two weeks.

Aquiline has agreed to pay $13.87 per First Investor share for the company, giving it a 39% premium of the stock’s September 25 closing price of $10. However, despite this premium, there is good chance that Aquiline has got itself a deal since First Investors share price has climbed 32% in the past 12 months.

First Investors is a Houston-based company that providing direct and indirect lending, third-party servicing, and portfolio acquisitions. It has given indirect lending services to auto dealers in at least 37 states.

Talking about the sale, Tommy A. Moore Jr., First Investors president and CEO, said:

“The acquisition by Aquiline is the result of a thorough and competitive process focused on maximizing value for our stockholders. Our board unanimously supports this transaction and believes that the acquisition will continue to expand the company’s leadership position in the market it serves. As a management team, we are very excited to be partnering with Aquiline, a firm with an outstanding reputation, valuable industry expertise and capital resources that will enhance our ability to grow our company.”

Opel Not for Sale, PSA Alliance Lives on: GM

General Motors has announced that its alliance with PSA/Puegot Citroen will continue, which, kills, in effect, nearly all of the talk that the American automaker was ready to sell Opel. Common thought within the auto industry had been that if GM’s alliance with PSA/Puegot Citroen fell apart, GM would have sold Opel to Fiat.

However, this week, GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky, said, “Opel is not for sale. GM fully stands behind Opel. Opel is a fully integrated part of GM’s global footprint and vital for GM’s future success in Europe. The GM-PSA alliance is fully on track.”

The decision to stand pat does not come without controversy. Since being bought by GM, Opel has not made any money for the American giant causing some financial bigwigs to call for the brand to be jettisoned.

UD Commercial Trucks: “Sayonara” to North America!

UD Trucks has called it quits in the North American market due to, analysts say, the strength of the Japanese yen, In fact, the yen is so powerful these days that many Japanese companies are asking for their government to intervene. Their lofty currency makes it tough for exporting Japanese companies to make a profit overseas.

The company has notified dealers that it will sell the 300-something trucks it has remaining in its inventory and will continue to accept orders for 2013 vehicles up until October 15.

The departure of UD trucks from North America closes a 27-year run.

General Motors Reshuffles Its Upper Deck, Again

General Motors has a tough time keeping its fingers off the heads of its top people. They seem to fall as quickly as they are put into place. The most recent casualty is Joel Ewanick, the guy who had been in charge of GM’s worldwide $4 billion advertising budget.

The early word is that Ewanick was made redundant for not letting the American automaker’s executives know that the deal they had penned with English soccer team Manchester United would cost GM at least $300,000,000 over the course of several years.

The axe must have come as a shock to Ewanick. After all, he had built a budget-conscious reputation for doing things like stocking his office with furniture from Ikea and not buying into the value of advertising on Facebook.

Will VW Buy Lotus and Proton to Boost SE Asian Market Share?

There are rumors drifting amidst the spiced air of South East Asia that Volkswagen is in talks with Malaysia’s Proton to purchase it and Lotus, an automotive brand owned by Proton.

Though this is not the first time that VW has kicked the tires of Proton and Lotus, now just might be the perfect time for the German automaker to finally make the move, for Proton is just about as low as a company can be. Heck, earlier this week someone offered a single British pound for the lightweight sports car maker.

Proton is likewise less than healthy. Originally created as part of then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s plan to bring Malaysia into the 21st Century, Proton has yet to make a car that could successfully compete in the open market.

Odds are that while VW is not a particular big fan of either Proton or Lotus, the move does make sense for the auto-making juggernaut as it would give it a strong foothold in South East Asia.