Capital One is a leading consumer finance and banking company in the US, with a small presence in the UK and Canada. It established itself as one of the fastest-growing credit card lenders during the 1990s as a result of aggressive and high profile marketing, underpinned by sophisticated credit analysis systems. More recently Capital One has embarked on a strategy of diversification, designed to reduce not only the group's dependence on credit card lending, but also the likelihood of an unsolicited takeover. The group is now the last of a dying breed. Virtually all the other US specialist credit card lenders, such as Providian or MBNA, have now been acquired by larger groups and Capital One has often been flagged up an attractive potential target for a big bank seeking to expand its credit card business further. For now, though, the threat of an unwanted takeover has been reduced by the financial pressures affecting potential predators. Instead, Capital One has been the acquirer not the acquiree, snapping up businesses including the US operations of HSBC credit cards and ING Direct.
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