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Exclusive: Wesco Aircraft explores options that include sale - sources

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By Greg Roumeliotis and Harry Brumpton

(Reuters) - Wesco Aircraft Holdings Inc, a U.S. distributor of parts to the aviation and defence industries, is exploring options that include a sale of the company, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Wesco is making progress with its initiatives to improve its inventory management and trim its debt pile. Earlier this month, its shares rallied after it reported quarterly earnings that showed that some of its operational improvements were paying off.

Wesco has hired investment banks to explore acquisition interest in the company, the sources said, cautioning that the deliberations are preliminary and no deal is certain.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Wesco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wesco shares rose 9 percent on the news to $10.58, giving the company a market capitalization of $1.1 billion. Wesco's outstanding debt as of the end of March totalled $858 million.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wesco supplies hardware, chemicals, electronic components, bearings, tools and machined parts to the global aerospace industry.

Private equity firm Carlyle Group LP invested in Wesco in 2006 and floated the company in the stock market in 2011. It still owns close to a quarter of the company.

Some of Wesco's debt load is the legacy of its acquisition of chemical supply chain management company Haas Group Inc from buyout firm Jordan Company LP for $550 million in 2014.

On May 2, Wesco reported net sales of $426.5 million in its fiscal second quarter, 9.3% higher than the same period last year, "reflecting continued focus and execution in a strong market."

Private equity firms have shown strong acquisition interest in aircraft servicing providers because of their typically strong cash flow. Last month, Carlyle acquired engine and airframe maintenance company StandardAero from buyout firm Veritas Capital for more than $5 billion, including debt.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Harry Brumpton in New York; editing by Grant McCool)