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(Reuters) - Plex Systems Inc, a privately held U.S. maker of software used to run manufacturing plants, is exploring a potential sale which it hopes will value it at more than $1 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move comes as the world's largest industrial companies, from General Electric Co (GE.N) to Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE), seek to snap up software assets to modernize their manufacturing processes, improve their supply chains and cut costs.
Francisco Partners, the private equity firm that is the majority owner of Plex, is working with investment bank Morgan Stanley (MS.N) to run an auction process for Plex, the people said this week, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
If it decides not to follow through with a sale, Plex could also explore an initial public offering, given that the stock market has been receptive to subscription-based software IPOs as of late, the people added.
Plex generates about $100 million in annual revenue, according to the sources.
Representatives for Plex, Francisco Partners and Morgan Stanley all declined to comment.
Plex's sector has seen strong dealmaking activity recently. Last year, General Electric acquired ServiceMax, which monitors devices for maintenance and other services, for $915 million, while Roper Technologies (ROP.N) bought software maker Deltek for $2.8 billion last year.
Based in Troy, Michigan, Plex was founded by factory workers on a shop floor to help improve manufacturing in 1995, according to its website. One of the biggest areas it serves is the automotive industry. It has branched out into cloud-based resource planning and accounting in recent years.
Francisco Partners acquired Plex from buyout firm Apax Partners LLP in 2012. Plex has also raised money from Accel Partners and T. Rowe Price Associates for a total of roughly $90 million in funding.
Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler