Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) is planning to hive off a minority stake in its leading prepaid payment network and gift card business, known as Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc., and take it public through an IPO planned for the first half of 2013.

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The press release announcing the above decision by Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) describes Blackhawk as follows:

“Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., operates Blackhawk Network, Inc., a leading prepaid payments network for consumers and businesses. The company offers the industry’s most popular prepaid gift cards and payment services from leading brands, through a network of leading grocery stores, big box, convenience, pharmacy, specialty stores, and Internet retailers, including GiftCardMall.com. Blackhawk operates a proprietary network that connects to over 500 content providers and over 70,000 active retail distribution locations globally.”

According to analysts, the IPO should get a favorable response from the investing public, and that the move by Safeway had been expected for some time, seeing that Blackhawk was a fast-growing and independent organization. Safeway had said that the company had a strong 2011 and that it had earned an EBITDA of $78 million.

The company did not reveal any information relating to pricing of the issue, beyond saying that it expects to file a registration form for the IPO soon.

Research firm Credit Suisse, however, does not appear to be very excited about the development, expecting an upside of only 3-5% to Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) stock due to the divestment. In their opinion, the stock has too many structural issues of its own to get a lift from the event. Further, they are not impressed with the timing of the issue, given the management’s hitherto unexplained reluctance to consider the IPO.

Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) (NYSE:CS) has a Neutral rating on Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY), and a target price of $18. The stock is trading at $16.54, up 4.61%.