Irn-Bru maker AG Barr sales rise despite recipe change

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Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has shrugged off the sugar tax, Brexit blues and volatile weather conditions to serve up a year of rising revenues.

Full-year turnover was up by 5.6 per cent to £279 million at the Cumbernauld-headquartered soft drinks group, which also makes Rubicon and Tizer.

Chief executive Roger White: 'strong financial performance'. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Chief executive Roger White: 'strong financial performance'. Picture: Stewart Attwood

The company posted a statutory pre-tax profit of £44.5m for the year to 26 January, down from £44.9m. The result takes into account a one-off pension service charge of £700,000. Stripping out exceptional items, profits nudged up 2.5 per cent to £45.2m.

A final dividend of 12.74p per share has been proposed to give a total dividend of 16.64p, an increase of 7 per cent over the prior year.

Barr said the results were “all the more pleasing” given the UK government’s sugar levy, which has hit the entire soft drinks industry.

It also had to contend with carbon dioxide shortages during the summer heatwave, the Beast from the East snow disruption, and a number of business failures and ongoing customer credit risks.

The firm revamped Irn-Bru and other drinks ranges to reduce the sugar content ahead of the launch of the new soft drinks sugar tax last April.

Chief executive Roger White said: “At the outset of 2018 we set out a clear strategy and specific actions which we believed were required to deliver continued financial success during what we forecast to be a year of significant changes across our industry.

“I am pleased to report we have delivered another strong financial performance having adapted well to both the circumstances we anticipated and those which were less expected.”

He added: “Whilst the uncertainty across the UK economy is likely to prevail for the foreseeable future, we have consistently demonstrated over the long-term that our strategy and execution are fit for purpose and resilient.

“The markets in which we operate are robust and provide us with continued opportunities to grow. We have exciting plans to deliver across the group and are confident of continuing to make further progress in the coming year.”

Alasdair Ronald, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin Scotland, said: “AG Barr’s results are broadly in line with expectations.

“Revenues increased by 5.6 per cent to £279m, slightly ahead of earlier indications, and pre-tax profits increased 2.5 per cent to £45.2m.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty for AG Barr in the last year or so: as well as the sugar tax, there’s the possible introduction of a return scheme for plastic bottles, the small matter of Brexit, and the generally negative retail and consumer outlook.

“However, throughout this period, the business has proven resilient and looks well placed to weather any future storms.”