May 21, 2015 / 12:02 AM / 2 years ago

Exclusive: Genealogy website Ancestry.com explores sale: sources

Two people talk at the Ancestry.com booth at the Rootstech Conference sponsored by Family Search in Salt Lake City, Utah February 7, 2014George Frey

(Reuters) - Ancestry.com LLC, the world's largest family history website helping users trace their heritage, is exploring a sale that could value it at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Permira Advisers LLC, the buyout firm that owns most of privately held Ancestry, has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company, the people said this week.

The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Permira declined to comment, while an Ancestry spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Based in Provo, Utah, Ancestry has a database of more than 15 billion historical records and more than 2.1 million paying subscribers. Subscription fees accounted for 83 percent of its total revenue of $619.6 million last year.

In addition to offering genealogical data, Ancestry provides a DNA service that allows customers to discover their genetic ethnicity and find relatives with a common ancestral match.

Permira outbid other private equity firms to take Ancestry private in 2012 for $1.6 billion. Ancestry's subscription revenues have grown to $553.8 million last year from $334.6 million in 2012.

Ancestry's adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were $214.8 million in 2014, according to its most recent annual report.

Permira, a European private equity firm, manages funds with about 25 billion euros ($27.7 billion) in committed capital.

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Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon

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