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By Carl O'Donnell
Aug 22 (Reuters) - Cinven Ltd is nearing a deal to acquire U.S. clinical trial manager BioClinica Inc from another private equity firm, JLL Partners, for more than $1.3 billion, including the assumption of debt, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
A deal between Cinven and Newtown, Pennsylvania-based Bioclinica could be finalized as early as this week, the people said, although they cautioned it could still fall through at the last minute.
The deal would underscore the private equity sector's insatiable appetite for contract research organizations, which have benefited in recent years from pharmaceutical companies' drive to cut costs, reduce clinical trial times and expand their research and development presence around the world.
The people asked not to be identified because the sale process was confidential.
JLL, Cinven and Bioclinica declined to comment.
The deal would be the latest in a string of acquisitions of pharmaceutical contract research organizations by private equity firms this year.
Earlier this month, Thomas H. Lee Partners LP agreed to sell a 50 percent stake in inVentiv Group Holdings to Advent International Corp, valuing the company at $3.8 billion. In March, Genstar Capital agreed to sell another contract research organization, ERT, to Nordic Capital for $1.8 billion, including debt.
JLL Partners recently partially cashed out on another pharmaceutical services investment, Patheon NV, which raised $640 million in an initial public offering in July. That company now has a market capitalization of around $4 billion.
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.
JLL Partners took BioClinica in 2013 for $123 million.
Subsequently, the buyout firm rapidly scaled up BioClinica through a series of acquisitions, including the purchase of specialty clinical trial services firm Synowledge. Cinven plans to continue to grow Bioclinica both organically and through acquisitions, one of the sources said.
At Cinven, Bioclinica will be joining a large portfolio of healthcare investments, most of which are based in Europe. Cinven launched an initial public offering for another pharmaceutical services portfolio company, Medpace Inc, earlier this month, raising more than $160 million.
The Bioclinica deal would be the first investment out of Cinven's new 7 billion euro ($7.9 billion) buyout fund, which for the most part focuses on acquiring companies based in Europe. (Reporting by Carl O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)