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A TD sign at a branch in Ottawa on May 26, 2016.Chris Wattie/Reuters

Toronto-Dominion Bank is buying the Canadian equipment-financing business run by U.S. retail banking giant Wells Fargo & Co. , consolidating two of the larger players in that type of lending in Canada and helping give TD a leading share of the market.

The deal announced Thursday allows TD to build out its existing equipment-financing business, which has mostly focused on financing larger loans to companies purchasing special equipment, machinery and vehicles. By acquiring Wells Fargo’s direct equipment financing unit, TD gains a book of business that includes a broader range of smaller and mid-sized clients, as well as the U.S. bank’s systems for processing loans quickly.

The acquisition also expands TD’s presence in important markets across Canada. The business run by Wells Fargo is headquartered in Mississauga, just west of Toronto, but has regional offices in Montreal and Calgary, where TD’s sales forces in equipment finance are less established. The Wells Fargo unit has about $1.5-billion in assets and more than 120 staff, providing financing to businesses that need to buy a range of commercial equipment, from transport trucks to construction and manufacturing tools.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. TD said the transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year but still needs approvals from regulators and under the Competition Act.

“In today’s challenging operating environment, businesses are looking to their bankers to help keep their fleets current, deliver new construction equipment to job sites and support manufacturing businesses with timely customized financing and leasing solutions,” Darren Cooke, vice-president of TD Equipment Finance, said in a news release.

Wells Fargo’s strength in equipment finance in Canada was built partly on a key acquisition in 2016 when General Electric Capital Corp., the financial services arm of the General Electric Co. conglomerate, sold off pieces of its financing business. Wells Fargo snapped up GE’s equipment finance unit, including a roster of specialized staff, after Bank of Montreal acquired the transportation finance division. But the unit was only a small part of Wells Fargo’s Canadian operations.

The head of Wells Fargo Commercial Capital, David Marks, said in a statement that the sale of the business to TD will “allow us to focus our efforts on our U.S. equipment-finance capabilities.”

Over the past decade, other Canadian banks have also moved more into equipment finance – an unglamorous business line that can nevertheless be lucrative and relatively low-risk, as most lending is heavily secured by equipment that can be resold. In 2010, Royal Bank of Canada bought RCAP Leasing and Canadian Western Bank acquired National Leasing Group. More recently, Canadian Western also acquired equipment financing and leasing assets from ECN Capital Corp. in 2018.

For months, TD executives have signalled that the bank is open to pursuing acquisitions, and TD is flush with capital it could choose to spend on deals. But the bank’s focus has mostly been on hunting for opportunities to increase its market share in the southeastern U.S., especially in Florida, or acquire a branded credit-card business, similar to existing partnerships it already has with major retailers Target and Nordstrom.

At a virtual conference earlier this week, TD’s chief executive officer, Bharat Masrani, said that “should there be a compelling opportunity, you would want us to look at it,” later adding: “I expect something will show up given the level of dislocations that have taken place” amid the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

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