AT&T Capital was the equipment leasing and commercial finance arm of AT&T
AT&T Capital’s business was relatively dependent on two major contracts with NCR and Lucent, whose equipment sales it financed. It employed around 3,500 people in more than 20 countries.
At the end of 1995, AT&T Capital had over $9.5 billion in assets spread across a broad portfolio encompassing medical equipment, telecommunications, document imaging, information technology and commercial fleets. Diverse acquisitions outside the US had reduced profitability and resulted in an overall expense ratio as a proportion of income substantially greater than the commercial finance industry average.
Potential operating efficiencies were identified as AT&T Capital had been managed for asset and sales growth, with insufficient focus on managing costs. A strategic shift for the business was devised and implemented, targeting new types of customers, such as computer manufacturers, and disposing of certain non-core or non-profitable business lines.
With Terra Firma’s support and guidance, a detailed plan for the realisation of operating efficiencies and corporate overhead reductions was developed. In addition, the multiple computer systems that had accumulated over years of acquisitions were rationalised and upgraded to simplify and enhance performance monitoring.
The AT&T Capital investment has been fully realised. Terra Firma sold the business to a trade buyer in 1998 in a part stock, part cash deal. Terra Firma’s employees played an important role in the management of the newly-merged business and in arranging the company’s subsequent take-over by a quoted US leasing company in November 1999. Terra Firma’s stake was sold in March 2001.