FORT WORTH-In a dual-pronged move, Cash America International Inc. has exited the European market after a 12-year run and has dibs on buying a competitor to get a foothold in the Western US. The sale of two European networks has reeled in $128 million before taxes while the pending purchase, set to close within 90 days, will cost about $125 million.

The Fort Worth-based operator’s pawnshop portfolio contains 402 locations in 17 states, predominately tied down by long-term leases, with upward of 7,000 sf for each storefront. The firm sold 69 locations in the United Kingdom and Sweden and will pick up 41 SuperPawn shops in Nevada, Arizona, Washington and California.

With the exchange set into motion in the last two days, Dee Littrell, Cash America’s investor relations manager, tells that the SuperPawn flag will remain in place and the brand expanded, but the store count has yet to be determined. “Our main goal in acquiring them was the growth potential, specifically in the western part of the US,” he says, adding the expansion will target Oregon, Washington and California rather than Nevada where 21 of the 41 SuperPawn shops are located.

The publicly traded Cash America, the nation’s largest pawnshop operator, is marking its largest takedown of a competitor–cost and number of shops–since it was founded in 1983. In August 2003, Cash America paid $53 million for 121 Cash Advance stores, mainly in Ohio and expanded the network into Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

Camco Inc., SuperPawn’s parent, will receive about $15 million of Cash America common stock and the balance in cash when the deal closes. Founded in 1967, the chain’s one-year revenues totaled $67 million as of June 30. Besides Las Vegas, the chain has five stores in Reno, NV; 10 in Phoenix; four in Seattle and one in San Diego.

Cash America’s two European businesses–Harvey and Thompson, based in London, and Svensk Pantbelaning, headquartered in Stockholm–were sold to the Rutland Fund, managed by Rutland Partners LLP of the United Kingdom. The sale, which closed Tuesday, rolled about $128 million before taxes into Cash America’s coffer, including $12.5 million in notes receivable with the residual in cash, based on approximated exchange rates, according to a company press release. Harvey and Thompson’s network totals 57 locations and the Swedish company is getting 13 stores.

Cash America broke into the European market in 1992 with 24 stores. “We now believe the growth opportunities for both our pawn and short-term cash advance businesses are more plentiful and potentially more rewarding in the US than any opportunities we find in Europe,” says Daniel R. Feehan, Cash America’s president and CEO. “We are fortunate to find a significant opportunity for redeployment so quickly with the SuperPawn acquisition.”

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