By Martinne Geller and Arno Schuetze
LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The process to sell Nestle's skin health division is off to a good start, with strong interest in the business following an overhaul, the chief executive said on Thursday,
"We've seen very, very strong interest in this process, and literally people lining up around the block to be part of this process," Chief Executive Mark Schneider told analysts in a conference call.
First round bids for the unit, which is expected to fetch around 7 billion Swiss francs (£5.4 billion), are due on 6 March, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Nestle declined to comment on the deadline.
Another source said the unit, which sells Cetaphil and Proactiv skin care products, Restylane wrinkle fillers and prescription dermatology medicines, is particularly attractive to private equity firms, since there are not many assets of this size available.
Reuters reported last month that private equity firms Cinven and Advent had teamed up to submit a joint offer, while several other firms were also expected to bid.
CEO Schneider said the business was operating from a position of strength following "significant, impressive progress" in performance over the past 2.5 years.
He said a similar turnaround had taken place at the Herta charcuterie business, which is also up for sale.
That business, which is particularly big in France but present in other parts of Europe, had sales of about 680 million Swiss francs last year, Schneider said.
Nestle shares were up more than 2 percent at 1445 GMT on Thursday after the company reported higher 2018 sales and forecast further growth this year, as Schneider's overhaul takes hold.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London and Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Editing by Keith Weir; Editing by Edmund Blair)