GE Capital Corp. plans to convert its Ohio-chartered credit card unit into a federal savings bank, according to an application filed Dec. 23 with the Office of Thrift Supervision.

As part of the deal, GE Capital and its parent, Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co., would become unitary thrift holding companies.

GE said in the application that it wants to convert because federal thrifts have broader deposit-taking powers and are exempt from state branching laws. The Cincinnati-based thrift has $4.4 billion of assets and an office in Australia.

GE is the latest in a string of financial services companies to seek approval for a federal thrift since Congress began debating legislation that would eliminate the charter. Others with pending requests include securities firm A.G. Edwards and insurers Transamerica and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

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