Too early to speculate about sale of Omega Pharma: CEO

BRUSSELS Tue Jul 8, 2014 5:52am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Omega Pharma NV [COUCKO.UL], a Belgian over-the-counter healthcare supplier, said any speculation about the future of the company was premature as no decision had yet been taken, following suggestions it could sell itself.

The firm, taken private by Chief Executive Mark Coucke and private equity group Waterland in 2011, has hired Morgan Stanley to look at strategic options, including a possible sale, one person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Bloomberg earlier reported Omega Pharma was considering a sale in a deal that could earn its owners more than $4 billion.

"The rumours about Omega Pharma are premature and one-sided. The business is doing great. The environment changes quickly so you have to investigate your options," Coucke wrote on Twitter.

"That's why we are looking together with Waterland how Omega Pharma can be even stronger in the future. There is still so much left to build," he added.

Omega Pharma sells prescription-free medicines, healthcare products and over-the-counter (OTC) items such as wart treatments and sun tan lotions.

The fragmented OTC industry is consolidating fast and competition for assets is keen, as illustrated by the high-priced $14.2 billion sale of Merck & Co's (MRK.N) consumer care business to Germany's Bayer (BAYGn.DE) in May.

Coucke said he did not expect any decision soon. "Don't expect anything in the coming months," he wrote on Twitter.

Omega Pharma was not immediately available to elaborate on Coucke's comments. Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The Belgian group is well known for its sport sponsorship, such as the cycling team Omega Pharma Quickstep of British rider Mark Cavendish. Mark Coucke also owns Belgian soccer club KV Ostend.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Anjuli Davies, Esha Vaish and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter)

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