* Q4 sales below expectations
* Says 2009 growth is realistic option
* Plans to cut costs by 30 million euros
* Shares down 1.75 pct (Adds details, background)
BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (Reuters ) - Belgian health products distributor Omega Pharma OMEP.BR reported a 2 percent rise in fourth-quarter sales on Thursday, below analysts’ expectations, and forecast slight turnover growth this year.
The company, which sells non-prescription products to pharmacists, said sales totalled 205.2 million euros ($266.3 million), against the average 214.9 million euro forecast in a Reuters poll of seven analysts.
“Omega Pharma is convinced that a slight growth in turnover for 2009 is a realistic option,” the company said.
It said it planned to reduce costs by at least 30 million euros and improve working capital by more than 20 million.
Its shares closed down 1.75 percent at 26.97 euros.
Analysts had expressed concern that declining consumer confidence would hit sales of Omega’s over-the-counter pharmacy products such as vitamins, head lice treatment and sun tan lotions.
There were also concerns about growth declining in eastern Europe along with the impact of falling currencies there and of the weakness of the pound.
Omega said that health and personal care products continued to be only slightly to moderately sensitive to the recession, although sales fell in France by 7 percent in the quarter. Smaller product areas such as make-up were hit. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)