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The General Electric logo is seen in a Sears store in Schaumburg, Ill., September 8, 2014.Jim Young/Reuters

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ares Management submitted bids Thursday for General Electric Co.'s U.S. private-equity lending business, people familiar with the matter said.

Apollo Global Management and Guggenheim Securities also made offers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren't public. The unit has a book value of about $3-billion (U.S.), the people said, and any buyer would have to assume substantial liabilities tied to its more than $10-billion in assets, boosting the size of the deal.

GE could select a buyer as soon next week, one person said. Canada Pension Plan, the country's largest such fund manager, was viewed as the front-runner after submitting the best initial offer earlier this month, the person said. The latest bids were due Thursday, the people said.

The division helps buyout firms line up takeover financing. It may be the first major business to be sold since GE announced plans April 10 to unload about $200-billion of GE Capital assets as chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt refocuses the company on industrial operations.

Representatives of GE, Ares and CPPIB declined to comment. Guggenheim and Apollo didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

GE has sought to sell the so-called sponsor-finance unit quickly to blunt the possibility of staff defections amid a drawn-out divestiture. The company has offered retention bonuses to some employees and put restrictions on the ability of bidders to hire GE's bankers. The European portion of the business is being sold separately.

The bulk of the private-equity business is Chicago-based GE Antares Capital, acquired in 2005. The division arranges high-interest loans of $30-million to $500-million for leveraged buyouts and does business with more than 300 private-equity funds.

GE has begun a separate sale process for most of its U.S. commercial loan and leasing unit, the people said. The Fairfield, Conn.-based company asked potential buyers to sign non-disclosure agreements to review financial details for $40-billion of loans in the vendor finance, equipment leasing and commercial lending operations, the people said.

Immelt has been moving GE away from lending since GE Capital put the parent company at risk during the 2008-09 financial crisis. The move accelerated with the April 10 agreement to sell most of GE's real estate to Blackstone Group LP and Wells Fargo & Co. for $23-billion.

With heavy interest from prospective buyers, the disposal of GE Capital assets is going faster than anticipated, Immelt said in a May 20 presentation. The company could announce as much as $30-billion of sales by the end of June.

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