Science Applications International Corp. plans to sell a portion of its commercial business and step up the search for acquisitions in an effort to focus on growth markets, officials said last week.

Chief executive Walter P. Havenstein said during a call with investors that the McLean-based company has begun trying to sell a part of its business that provides specialized IT services to oil and gas companies.

“To grow our oil and gas services business would have required substantial investment in management time and attention in areas outside our strategic growth areas, with significant focus on increasing our offshore capabilities,” he said.

The move comes as contractors are realigning their businesses with what they expect to be growing sectors, including areas such as cybersecurity and health IT. Some companies have divested units they said weren't part of their core strategy or picked up specialized companies to build on their work in attractive markets.

Havenstein said SAIC will hold onto the part of its commercial IT business focused on domestic utilities and has integrated the unit into its environment, energy and infrastructure business.

Mark W. Sopp, the company's chief financial officer, said the portion to be divested represents roughly $200 million in revenue.

During the call, Havenstein also promised a “bolder” acquisitive growth strategy, through which SAIC would “function as a consolidator” in high-growth areas.

“We expect these opportunities to generally be larger in size than the ‘bolt-on' acquisitions that characterized our earlier strategy,” he said.

Asked whether the company would consider acquiring a public company, Havenstein said SAIC would consider both whole public companies or their assets.

But, “oftentimes because they're publicly traded companies, they go into an auction, and frankly, we prefer not to get into bidding wars and end up being the last drunk standing at the bar. So we tend to favor private companies,” he said. “But we have looked at more than our fair share of public companies.”

Recent SAIC acquisitions include Sunnyvale, Calif.-based CloudShield Technologies, an online data inspection company; and Bedford, Mass.-based Reveal Imaging Technologies, which provides threat detection technologies.

George A. Price Jr., senior equity research analyst for IT services at BB&T Capital Markets, said commercial business in general is only a small part of SAIC's work.

“Commercial in many respects isn't a core area,” said Price. “There are probably more commercially focused IT services firms out there that might be very interested in this business.”

SAIC reported last week that its fourth-quarter profit grew about 7.3 percent. The company announced profit of $132 million (36 cents per share) in the three-month period ended Jan. 31, up from $123 million (31 cents) in the same period a year earlier. Quarterly revenue grew slightly to $2.77 billion.

The company's earnings increased 24.3 percent for the year, to $618 million ($1.63) in fiscal 2011, up from $497 million ($1.24) in 2010. Annual revenue hit $11.12 billion.