General Electric Co. plans to spin off the U.S. consumer lending business of its finance arm with an initial public offering of stock that could come early next year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper also said Friday that the Fairfield, Conn., conglomerate is considering smaller spinoffs or asset sales, but it has started preliminary work on the IPO. The paper cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

The consumer finance business provides store credit cards to about 55 million people for retailers like Wal-Mart Stores It accounts for $50 billion of GE Capital's $274 billion in outstanding loans, according to the report.

Aside from its finance business, GE sells a wide variety of industrial equipment and appliances around the world. This includes jet engines, medical diagnostic equipment, oil and gas drilling equipment, and washing machines.

GE representatives did not immediately return calls early Friday morning from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Shares of GE climbed $0.23 cents to $23.34 before markets opened. That put the stock up 11% so far this year.

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