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EXCLUSIVE-Warburg Pincus, Vestar mull Triton Container IPO -sources

NEW YORK, June 2 (Reuters) - Private equity firms Warburg Pincus LLC and Vestar Capital Partners Inc are exploring an initial public offering of Triton Container International Ltd that could value the company at more than $6 billion, including debt, said three people familiar with the matter.

The move is the latest sign of recovery in the shipping industry. Ship owners ordered large numbers of vessels between 2007 and 2009, just as the global economy sank into crisis. Prospects have brightened in recent months as world trade picks up and the ship glut is absorbed.

Triton, the world's largest container leasing company, has held conversations with investment banks in recent weeks about an IPO in the United States of up to $500 million that could come later this year, the people said on Monday.

Triton's private equity owners are also open to exploring an outright sale of the company, one of the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the conversations are private. Warburg Pincus and Vestar declined to comment, while Triton representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Founded in 1980, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Triton has a roughly 15 percent share of the global leased fleet market and a network of more than 200 independent depots, according to Warburg Pincus' website.

Warburg Pincus and Vestar took a controlling stake in Triton in 2011 from the Pritzker family, one of the wealthiest in the United States, in a deal that a source said at the time valued the company at about $3.5 billion, including debt.

In April, private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC's Principal Maritime Tankers Corp, which owns tankers used to transport crude oil and petroleum products, filed for an IPO.

Not all such IPOs have gone as planned. Oil products tanker group Diamond S Shipping backed out of an IPO in March, despite the support of leading global investor Wilbur Ross.

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)