Quintiles, the biggest provider of drug-trial services to pharmaceutical companies, may make acquisitions that are “tactical tuck-ins” as its grows organically, Chief Executive Officer Tom Pike said in an interview Wednesday.

The company is studying an initial public offering sometime in the next 18 months after going private and restructuring its business in 2003, two people familiar with the matter have said.

In the meantime, the Durham, North Carolina-based company looking at smaller deals that fit in with its contract research and sales operations, Pike, who joined Quintiles in April, said Wednesday during an interview at Bloomberg’s offices.

The company’s currently focused on growing organically, according to Pike. Any acquisitions would be tuck-ins, he said.

Pike declined to comment on the potential IPO.

“It’s a board decision,” he said. “We do evaluate our capital structure from time to time and are comfortable with it, but we really can’t comment.”

Quintiles is among the contract-research organizations whose revenue growth has accelerated as drugmakers outsource trials, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Sept. 12 research note. In 2008, Quintiles was bought by private-equity firms including TPG Capital and Bain Capital LLC in a deal valued at $3.8 billion, including debt, another person said.

The owners may be eager to start unwinding their investment after U.S. stocks this month rallied to the highest since 2007, encouraging private equity firms to sell companies bought during the most recent buyout boom. A record $1.6 trillion in leveraged buyouts were completed from 2005 to 2007, according to Preqin Ltd., a London-based research firm.

Expanding Units

Since 2003 Quintiles has expanded its business units that help drugmakers market and sell their products, and that business line is now the company’s second biggest.

Quintiles has over $3 billion in annual sales, Pike said, the majority of which comes from operations outside the U.S. He sees China as a major growth area, especially with what he said are more than 4,000 biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies there that will need Quintiles’ services.

Pike, 53, joined the company after 22 years at the consulting firm Accenture Plc, where he ran its strategy practices and was chief operating officer of the energy services group. After retiring at 50, he consulted with a private equity firm on a hospital business, and later was called by Quintiles to lead the company.

“I view the fact that they have a new CEO now as potentially a sign that they’re preparing their next leg of growth or next strategy, which could include an IPO,” Jessica Gladstone, a New York-based senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an interview last week. “An IPO could also be a way to reduce leverage and an exit strategy for the owners.”

The company hasn’t yet invited banks to pitch for roles on the sale, the people said.

[QUINTILES ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of Quintiles stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]