AG Barr still keen on Britvic merger as sales fizz

Despite the dire spring weather, Irn-Bru's maker AG Barr pushed up sales in a flat soft drinks market and yesterday said it was still keen to push on with a merger with its rival Britvic.

Provisional findings from the Competition Commission on the potential £1.4bn deal are due early next month.

Barr, which also makes Tizer and the Rubicon range of drinks, said sales in the first 15 weeks of the year were up 2.4 per cent. That compares well with the overall market, which was flat, and with Britvic, which saw UK fizzy drink sales fall over the same period.

The company also said that it expects to open its new factory in Milton Keynes within the next eight weeks. Ultimately, this will double the number of cans of drink it can produce and push up capacity for plastic bottled drinks by 40 per cent.

Barr said: "As we now enter the key summer trading period, we anticipate that the marketplace will remain highly competitive. Our commercial and operational plans are well developed and we remain focused on delivering a strong result for the year."

The case for the Britvic merger was as strong as ever, it said, adding that it would look again at the deal in the light of the commission's findings.

Barr said there had seen more special offers than usual in the market in the first part of this year as it and its rivals battled against the bad weather.