Barclays is shopping its exchange traded fund (ETF) business, the popular iShares line, in an effort to build its cushion of cash. The industry is abuzz with one question: who will buy it?

The iShares business could go for $5.6 billion, but it could also bring in less because analysts have valued the entire Barclays Global Investors business at $7 billion, reports Shara Schaefer Munoz for The Wall Street Journal.

Barclays shares rallied more than 20% on news of the talks. Barclays is one of the most thinly capitalized U.K. banks and is trying to raise more cash in an effort to avoid turning to the government for assistance.

The ETF industry has been one of the positive points in an otherwise down market for the last year. Investors aren’t shying away from them, because they offer many things other funds don’t tend to, such as low fees and transparency. Barclays itself grabbed $56.3 billion in new assets in 2008 for a total of $254.7 billion in assets.

Who’s going to buy the line of funds? Let the speculation begin. Few providers have the kind of cash necessary to purchase the entire line of one of the world’s largest ETF providers, so the list of likely candidates is bound to be a short one.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.