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GE consumer-credit spinoff could be year’s biggest IPO

By Leslie Picker and Richard Clough
Bloomberg News

NEW YORK Synchrony Financial, the consumer-credit business being spun off by General Electric, is seeking a market value of as much as $22 billion in what may be the biggest U.S. initial public offering this year.

Synchrony, whose products include store credit cards for retailers such as Walmart and J.C. Penney, is offering 125 million shares for $23 to $26 apiece, the filing shows. At the high end of that range, Synchrony would raise $3.3 billion, the largest U.S. IPO of 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The spinoff is part of GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt’s bid to shrink the share of earnings coming from GE’s finance arm, which imperiled the Fairfield, Conn.-based parent company during the 2008-09 financial crisis. GE has been shedding real estate holdings and stakes in foreign banks while expanding its industrial business through moves including the almost $17 billion acquisition of Alstom’s energy assets.

Even at the low end of the marketed range, Synchrony would raise $2.9 billion and become the biggest IPO this year, surpassing Ally Financial. Ally, the auto lender rescued by the U.S. government during the 2008 financial crisis, raised $2.6 billion in the second quarter.

Synchrony is being valued at a discount to its credit-card peers. At $26, the high end of the price range, Synchrony’s shares reflect a multiple of 11 times last year’s earnings. That compares with Discover Financial Services, which trades at 12 times 2013 earnings, and American Express at 18 times, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Synchrony says it is the largest provider of private-label credit cards in the U.S. based on purchase volume of $94 billion last year, according to the filing.

GE will own 85 percent of Synchrony after the offering, the prospectus shows. In the second step of the separation, Synchrony’s remaining shares will be distributed to GE stockholders in a tax-free transaction. GE plans to complete the full spinoff late next year.

Synchrony’s roadshow, in which it markets the deal to potential investors, starts Friday. The company will use proceeds from the IPO to repay debt and increase its capital, Friday’s filing shows.

GE, which reported second-quarter earnings Friday that matched analysts’ estimates, buoyed by rising sales in units making jet engines and gas turbines, slipped less than 1 percent to $26.46 in New York Friday, giving the company a market value of $265 billion.

Synchrony will list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SYF. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are managing the offering.

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