By Oliver Hirt
ZURICH (Reuters) - General Electric Co <GE.N> wants to sell its Swiss consumer lending business and UBS AG <UBSN.VX> is one of the possible bidders, in a deal that could be worth up to 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion), sources said.
Two people familiar with the matter told Reuters UBS was one of at least two parties who planned to submit bids for GE Money Bank in an auction process.
"GE wants to finalize the sale ... by the end of the first quarter," said one of the sources.
Spokespeople for UBS and GE Money Bank in Switzerland declined to comment.
The disposal is part of a plan by the U.S. conglomerate to shed non-core assets, such as a $1.5 billion stake in Thailand's fifth-largest lender Bank of Ayudhya <BAY.BK>.
If UBS were to buy the Swiss unit it would be the first deal of note for Switzerland's biggest bank since the financial crisis, when it ran up $50 billion in subprime losses and took a Swiss government bailout in 2008.
Its last major acquisition was of Brazilian investment bank Pactual for about $3.1 billion in 2006, but UBS was forced to sell the bank in 2009 to raise capital.
A UBS purchase of GE Money Bank would confirm the bank's stated desire to refocus on its home market and the core wealth management business as it scales back in investment banking.
In October, UBS said it had earmarked 1.5 billion francs for investment across all businesses over the next three years and said it would cut 10,000 jobs in a retreat from many fixed income activities.
Swiss consumer lending is estimated to be a 15 billion franc market in loan volume.
(Reporting by Oliver Hirt; Writing by Katharina Bart; Editing by Emma Thomasson and David Holmes)
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