May 26, 2016 / 5:01 PM / a year ago

Clinical trials firm BioClinica explores sale: sources

(Reuters) - BioClinica Inc, a U.S. pharmaceutical contract research organization owned by buyout firm JLL Partners, is exploring a sale that could value it at as much as $1.3 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Newtown, Pennsylvania-based company has hired investment bank Jefferies LLC to run an auction for the company, the people said this week, declining to be identified because the discussions are private.

JLL Partners declined to comment. Jefferies and BioClinica did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The sale process highlights a wave of dealmaking activity that has overtaken the pharmaceutical services sector in recent months, with some of the largest players, including InVentiv Health Inc and Capsugel Inc, exploring an outright sale or an initial public offering, according to reports by Reuters.

Last year, another JLL Partners investment, Patheon, announced plans for an IPO. It is one of the largest contract manufacturing companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2013, JLL Partners acquired BioClinica, which was at the time a publicly traded company, for an equity value of $123 million.

In the ensuing years, the buyout firm rapidly scaled up BioClinica through a series of acquisitions, including most recently with the purchase of specialty clinical trial services firm Synowledge.

BioClinica's profits have grown as a result, with annual earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization now approaching $100 million, according to the sources.

BioClinica assists pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials, and has expertise in technologies that focus on clinical research data and analytics. It supports over 17,000 clinical trial sites in 90 countries.

Reporting by Carl O'Donnell in New York; Additional reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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