Barr and Britvic merger delayed as OFT review given more time

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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SOFT drinks groups AG Barr and Britvic will have to wait until next month before they hear whether their all-share merger is to be approved by regulators.

The deal had been expected to be completed by the end of this month, but the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has now told the two firms that it has extended its timetable to give itself more time to examine the merger, which will create one of Europe’s largest soft drinks groups, with annual sales of £1.5 billion.

Irn-Bru maker Barr unveiled its reverse takeover of Britvic in September after the owner of Robinsons and Tango was hit by the recall of some Fruit Shoot products because of safety concerns over a new lid design.

The tie-up will see investors in the Cumbernauld-based firm, which also owns Rubicon and Tizer, own 37 per cent of the new entity, to be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks. Shareholders in Hertfordshire-based Britvic, whose other brands include J2O, will own 63 per cent of the enlarged group.

Roger White, chief executive of Barr, will take up the same position at Barr Britvic. His

opposite number at Britvic, Paul Moody, will leave the group as a result of the merger, which is expected to result in up to 500 jobs over three years.

The chairman will be Gerald Corbett, currently chairman of Britvic, which also has a licensing agreement in the UK with Pepsi.

John Gibney, the current chief financial officer of Britvic, will have the same role in the combined group, while his counterpart at Barr, Alex Short, is due to step down from the board when the deal completes. Short, who is acting as integration director for the merger, was last week appointed as a non-executive director at five-a-side football pitch operator, Goals Soccer Centres.

Shareholders gave the deal their blessing earlier this month, but the merger needs clearance from the OFT. The regulator began its investigation in November to assess whether the deal would lead to a “substantial lessening” of competition.

In a joint statement yesterday, the soft drinks makers said they now expected to hear the OFT’s decision next month, and they will update the market with a revised timetable “in due course”.