Omega Pharma Said to Explore Sale of More Than $4 Billion

Omega Pharma NV, the Belgian over-the-counter health-care company, is exploring a sale of the business almost three years after it was taken private by its founder, people familiar with the matter said.

A sale of Nazareth, Belgium-based Omega Pharma could fetch more than $4 billion, one of the people said, and would follow deals by companies including Merck & Co., which raised $14.2 billion from selling its consumer-care unit in May. Omega Pharma is working with Morgan Stanley on the sale, which could start as early as this month, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

The company, which makes drugs including painkiller Solpadeine, was taken private from the Brussels stock exchange by founder and Chief Executive Officer Marc Coucke with Waterland Private Equity Investments BV and several co-investors in February 2012, after 13 years as a public company. The deal valued the company at 848 million euros ($1.15 billion).

Merck, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, sold its consumer division to Bayer AG as part of the Leverkusen, Germany-based company’s efforts boost its position near the top of the market for over-the-counter health products. In April, Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to a consumer joint venture.

Omega Pharma’s operating profit climbed 11 percent in 2013 to 137.7 million euros from a year earlier, according to the company’s annual report. Net sales climbed 16 percent to 1.2 billion euros, boosted by a strong performance in countries such as Germany, the U.K., Ireland, France and Russia.

Coucke didn’t return a request for comment, while a spokeswoman for Omega Pharma wasn’t available to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. A spokesman for Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Omega Pharma Invest NV, formerly known as Couckinvest NV, is the main shareholder with an almost 88 percent stake, the company’s annual report shows. The company holds the rest of the shares as treasury stock.

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