LONDON (AP) ¿ Private equity group CVC Capital Partners is the preferred bidder for Barclay's San Francisco-based asset management business iShares, the British bank said in a statement Tuesday.

Barclays is looking to raise money after turning down a place in the British government's program to insure so-called toxic assets. Media reports have said the CVC bid would value iShares at up to 5 billion pounds ($7.2 billion), and that Barclays could retain a 20 percent stake in the company.

Barclays said it planned to retain iShares' attributable securities lending business, adding that a further announcement would be made "in due course."

Analysts have said iShares accounts for more than half of Barclays Global Investment's profits despite managing less than a quarter of the operation's assets.

Scott Burns, a Morningstar Inc. analyst, said that even if iShares went to the Luxembourg-based CVC, the group was more likely to try to foster its development than strip it for parts.

"We don't think that iShares' presence in the market place will contract, even with private equity at the helm," Burns said. "iShares is a growing business and not an auto supplier, so it will be in the best interest of any prospective buyer to continue its growth and maintain its market leading position."

Barclays shares closed down 0.74 percent at 148 pence on the London Stock Exchange.

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