(Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) plans to spin off the U.S. consumer lending operations of its finance arm GE Capital, as the conglomerate moves to focus on its core industrial operations, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The decision to divest the business that issues store credit cards for 55 million Americans comes amid concerns about the company's exposure to banking, the Journal said.
Preliminary work to spin off the unit through an initial public offering is under way, the newspaper said.
GE has said the U.S. consumer-finance business earned $2.2 billion last year. The operation accounts for about $50 billion of GE Capital's outstanding loans of $274 billion.
An IPO could come early next year, but its size has not yet been determined, the people told the paper.
GE could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.
Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore