General Electric Co. announced its plan to spin off the consumer lending business of its finance arm with an initial public offering that could come in the first half of 2014. The company is also considering smaller spinoffs or asset sales. It has already started work on the IPO.

The consumer finance business gives store credit cards to around 55 million people for retailers such as Wal-Mart Inc. It accounts for $50 billion of GE Capital’s $274 billion in outstanding loans. GE Capital has expanded its portfolio of loans and other assets and could be ranked the nation’s fifth biggest commercial bank. It earned $2.2 billion last year.

GE has several businesses. Aside from the finance business, the company sells several industrial equipment and appliances across the nation. This includes medical diagnostic equipment, jet engines, washing machines, and oil and gas drilling equipment.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt said at a conference call last May that the company wanted a smaller GE Capital. He stated that they wanted to decrease the finance business’ assets from $402 billion in the first quarter to around $300 billion to $350 billion by the end of the year. He added that the move would give GE Capital excess cash that it would use to buy back stock. The asset total fell to $391 billion by the second quarter.

It was also last May when Immelt said that the company is planning to expand GE Capital’s core business, which is commercial lending. He said that capital markets were open to initial public offerings. The sale of the unit would be quicker but a buyer is likely to be found due to its size as well as several regulatory challenges that have prevented major banks from big deals.

Shares of GE increased 11 cents to $23.23 in late morning trading as the Dow Jones industrial average dropped less than 1 percent. So far in 2013, its stock gained almost 11 percent.

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