Chiltern International Ltd, a privately held British drug research contractor, has hired investment bank Jefferies LLC to explore a sale that could value it at around $1.3 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
A deal would underscore how the contract research organization industry has benefited in recent years from the pharmaceutical companies' drive to cut costs, reduce clinical trial times and expand their research and development presence around the world.
The sale process is in the early stages and will attract interest from private equity firms, the people said this week, asking to remain anonymous because the matter is confidential. There was no guarantee that the negotiations would result in a sale, the people cautioned.
Chiltern has 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of around $90 million, according to the sources.
Chiltern did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while Jefferies declined to comment.
In recent years, many of the largest pharmaceutical industry contractors have changed hands, often at lofty valuations.
Pharmaceutical Product Development LLC (PPD), for example, is close to agreeing to sell stakes to sovereign wealth funds at a valuation of a little over $9 billion, including debt, Reuters reported last month.
Chiltern has had a strong run over the past several years, with revenue growth that helped it expand from a valuation of just $200 million in 2013, based on the value of a stake sold by partial owner Kester Capital LLP at the time.
The company has also grown through acquisitions, including of Theorem Clinical Research in 2015.
(Reporting by Carl O'Donnell in New York)