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UPDATE 1-LabCorp to expand oncology offerings with $1.2 bln Chiltern buy

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July 31 (Reuters) - Diagnostics company Laboratory Corp of America Holdings said on Monday it would buy privately owned contract research organization (CRO) Chiltern International Ltd for nearly $1.2 billion in cash to expand its oncology offerings.

The CRO industry is undergoing a wave of consolidation as pharmaceutical companies strive to cut costs, reduce clinical trial times and expand their research and development presence.

Chiltern will become part of LabCorp's Covance unit, which carries out trials for drugmakers.

LabCorp acquired Covance Inc in 2015. In recent years, many of the largest pharma contractors have changed hands, often at lofty valuations.

The company said the deal would create leading oncology expertise, leveraging Covance's extensive experience in late-stage studies with Chiltern's early-stage development offerings.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Wells Fargo Securities are LabCorp's financial advisers while Jefferies LLC will provide financial advice to Chiltern.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter this year. (Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)