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Originally published Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Microsoft scraps deal with CIT

Microsoft has ended a financing agreement with CIT Group, the big commercial lender to small and medium-sized businesses that is trying...

Microsoft has ended a financing agreement with CIT Group, the big commercial lender to small and medium-sized businesses that is trying to avoid bankruptcy.

Customers who already used CIT to pay for Microsoft products will continue to get financing from the lender, Microsoft spokeswoman Stacie Sloane said Tuesday.

CIT's bondholders agreed to give the bank $3 billion in emergency financing Monday.

But in a regulatory filing Tuesday, the company warned it may file for bankruptcy if it can't persuade bondholders to swap their claims for 82.5 cents on the dollar.

Microsoft had signed an exclusive agreement with CIT beginning in France and Switzerland in 2006. The companies expanded the deal to other countries in 2007.

As part of the five-year contract, CIT provided financing for customers buying Microsoft software, computers and services.

Microsoft plans to work with a number of financial institutions, declining to say how much financing is provided to customers.

"We will ensure any credit-approved customer financing commitments are honored and plans are in place for new customers to receive financing through other vendors," Sloane said.

Meanwhile, CIT apparently spurned a General Electric offer of at least $2 billion in senior secured loans backed by aircraft, four people familiar with the matter said.

CIT rejected the loans from GE's finance arm, a rival in some lending businesses, over the weekend in favor of the $3 billion from a group of bondholders, two of the people said.

GE's offer, while less costly and requiring fewer assets as collateral, wouldn't have provided cash until July 31 because of a delay in structuring the deal, said two of the people, who didn't want to be identified because the offer wasn't public.

By contrast, CIT received $2 billion of the bondholders' loan Monday, with the rest expected by the end of the month.

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CIT described the bondholder deal in a statement as the first step in a "comprehensive restructuring" of liabilities that would require bondholder cooperation.

GE, the world's largest aircraft lessor, was betting its offer would be seen as more favorable, in part, because fewer planes may have been needed as collateral than under the bondholder loan, the people said.

CIT, with about 300 owned aircraft, is the third-biggest lessor behind GE with 1,500 planes and International Lease Finance Corp., which has about 980.

The GE loan could have been expanded to include additional funds using other collateral if CIT were to require it, three of the people said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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