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GE Files Registration for Credit Card IPO

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric (GE - Get Report) on Thursday announced the first step of the planned spin-off of its North American Consumer Finance unit.

The company filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and said it expects the initial public offering to be completed this year, and that it is targeting to "complete its exit from the Retail Finance business through a split-off transaction in 2015."

The new company will be called Synchrony Financial.

GE announced its plan to exit its North American consume finance unit - mainly a credit card lender - in November, as part of CEO Jeff Immelt's plan to continue shrinking GE Capital and focus on the parent company's core industrial businesses.

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Shedding the credit card assets will reduce GE Capital's liquidity requirements, which is part of GE's plan to avoid the type of liquidity crisis it faced in 2008, from its reliance on commercial paper for liquidity. GE plans to continue having GE Capital provide market commercial financing and lend to its industrial customers.

According to Synchrony Financial's S-1 filing, GE's North American Consumer Finance unit had $59.1 billion in total assets as of Dec. 31, with retail credit card receivables of $39.8 billion. Funding consisted of $25.7 billion in deposits gathered through GE Retail Bank, which will be renamed Synchrony Bank, as well $23.4 billion in borrowings. The unit's equity totaled just under $6.0 billion.

GE previously said it would offer up to 20% of the consumer finance unit's equity through the IPO, before eventually disposing completing its exit from the business in a transaction that would be tax-free to GE shareholders.

GE Capital's revenue for the fourth quarter was down 5% from a year earlier to $11.077 billion, while its profit rose 38% to $2.493 billion. For all of 2013, GE Capital's revenue was down 3% to $44.067 billion, while its profit was up 12% to $8.258 billion.

The unit paid $5.985 billion in dividends to the parent company during 2013, including $2 billion during the fourth quarter of 2012.

GE Capital's "ending net investment" (ENI), which excludes non-interest bearing liabilities, cash and equivalents, was $380 billion as of Dec. 31, down from $385 billion the previous quarter and $419 billion a year earlier. Immelt's goal is for the finance unit's ENI to shrink to a range of $300 billion to $350 billion.

The joint book-running managers for the Synchrony Financial IPO are Goldman, Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank Securities.

Shares of General Electric closed at $25.76 Wednesday. The shares are down 7% this year, following a return of 38% during 2013. The shares trade for 14.2 times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of $1.81 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $1.70.

Based on a quarterly payout of 22 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 3.42%.

This chart shows GE's stock performance since the end of 2011, against the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC):

GE Chart data by YCharts

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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