First USA Inc.'s stock was up 25 cents at midday Thursday, to $55.25, following a sharp increase of $4.25 over the previous two days. The surge was sparked by prospects that an initial public offering of First USA Paymentech Inc., its new merchant processing and commercial card unit, will be a hot property, Wall Street traders told Reuters.

The nation's third largest credit card issuer will sell shares of the newly created business unit to gain capital and increase shareholder value.

The 5.1 million shares are expected to be priced at $16 to $18 each, raised from the initial range of $14 to $16 per share.

After the sale, First USA will retain 79% of outstanding shares.

Merrill Lynch & Co., Goldman, Sachs & Co., and Montgomery Securities, are the lead underwriters.

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