By Greg Roumeliotis and Carl O'Donnell
(Reuters) - Athletico Physical Therapy, a U.S. provider of orthopedic rehabilitation and athletic training services, is exploring a sale that could value it at close to $2 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.
The sale process underscores the potential for consolidation that private equity firms see in the highly fragmented physical therapy sector, as a generation of baby boomers seeks relief from pain, strains and injuries.
Athletico had 80 clinics in three U.S. states when buyout firm Harvest Partners LP invested in the company in 2014 in a $400 million deal. Following some acquisitions, Athletico now has more than 350 locations in nine U.S. states.
Athletico has hired investment bank Jefferies LLC to explore strategic alternatives, including the sale or a majority or minority stake in the company, the people said this week.
Athletico has 12-month earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of around $130 million, the people added.
A sale of Athletico, should one occur, will likely result in the company's management continuing to own a significant stake in the company, the people said.
Harvest Partners declined to comment, while Athletico and Jefferies did not respond to requests for comment.
The sale process for Athletico would be the latest in a string of such deals in the sector by private equity firms. In May, buyout firm KRG Capital Partners sold ATI Physical Therapy to Advent International Corp in a deal estimated by investment bank Provident Healthcare Partners LLC to be valued at $1.9 billion.
Founded in 1991 by its Chief Executive Mark Kaufman, Oak Brook, Illinois-based Athletico has grown into one of the larger providers of physical therapy in the United Sates, employing more than 4,000 people.
The company has partnerships with several sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Red Wings, and the Chicago White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Carl O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)