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UPDATE 1-Synlab buys majority stake in Nigerian lab operator

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LAGOS, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Europe's largest lab operator Synlab has bought a majority stake in Nigerian diagnostic company PathCare Nigeria to try to tap into an underserved market for medical tests in Africa's most populous country, it said on Friday.

Nigerian lab operators, providing standard blood and urine tests as well as other medical and veterinary diagnostic services, have been attracting foreign interest to consolidate a sector dominated by family-owned businesses.

Synlab, owned by private equity firm Cinven, did not say how much it paid or the size of its stake in a company which it said was the largest private pathology laboratory firm in Nigeria.

"Nigeria has a population of about 186 million, but a large proportion of the population does not yet have access to modern medical diagnostics," said Thomas Degott, regional head of Synlab emerging markets.

The German lab chain -- which operates in more than 30 countries mainly in Europe -- has previously said it was looking at selective acquisitions in its current and in new markets.

PathCare Nigeria operates six laboratories and 21 blood collection points across Nigeria and is engaged in a public private partnership with the leading public hospital in Lagos.

Richard Ajayi, PathCare director, said the company bought back a 26 percent stake held by PathCare South Africa, its former parent company this year before the Synlab deal.

PathCare partnered with Synlab to accelerate growth in Nigeria, Ajayi told Reuters, adding that the local company will be rebranded over the next six months.

"PathCare Nigeria's customers will benefit from an enhanced test portfolio drawing from the breadth and depth of Synlab's international expertise," he said in a statement. (Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Keith Weir)