DALLAS - Associates First Capital Corp. has agreed to acquire the private-label credit card business of Zale Corp., the jewelry store chain.

The Zale card portfolio has $620 million of receivables and 840,000 active accounts. Associates would take over all Zale card operations, which include service facilities in four cities. The sale, which requires regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the month.

The buyer's Associates Commerce Solutions subsidiary would manage the private-label portfolio, handling such functions as customer service and billing.

"Associates will provide superior customer service and financial flexibility to take Zale's credit card business to the next level, while allowing us to redirect valuable resources to other growth areas," said Robert J. DiNicola, chairman of the board of Irving, Tex.-based Zale, which has 1,360 stores in North America.

Keith W. Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of Associates, said private-label relationships have led to substantial growth in Associates' credit card operations.

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