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Britvic in $2.1 billion merger talks with AG Barr
LONDON (Reuters) - British soft drinks group Britvic (BVIC.L) said it was in talks with Irn-Bru maker AG Barr (BAG.L) about a 1.3 billion-pound ($2.1 billion) merger, a move that could see it attract interest from private equity or rivals such as PepsiCo (PEP.N).
Both companies have suffered from poor weather this year, reflecting the wider economic impact of a sodden summer across the British retail sector.
Britvic, which makes and sells PepsiCo brands in Britain and Ireland, has had a torrid few months in particular. In July it had to recall of one of its top brands - Robinsons Fruit Shoot - over faulty caps, a move that could cut up to 25 million pounds from pretax profit in coming years.
The proposed all-share merger, the subject of recent reports, followed an approach by the smaller AG Barr that would see its shareholders own 37 percent of the enlarged group with investors in Tango and J20 maker Britvic owning the rest.
That split was in line with the relative market values of the two companies at Tuesday's closing prices.
The companies said the proposed merger would have "compelling industrial logic" and create significant synergies. These will likely to centre on management cost savings, greater buying power and enhanced revenues from better market access.
Numis analyst Charles Pick said while AG Barr's approach was opportunistic, Britvic was now in play.
Britvic shares were up 11 percent at 363.8 pence at 1240 GMT, with AG Barr shares up 6.5 percent to 442.2 pence.
AG Barr chief executive Roger White would be CEO of the combined group, the companies said, while Britvic finance officer John Gibney would keep that role. Britvic chairman Gerald Corbett would chair the enlarged company.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Wayne Brown said talks seemed well advanced. "The AG Barr management team have a very strong track record and would add significant strength to Britvic from both an operational and financial performance perspective."
Britvic, which sells 1.9 billion liters of soft drinks a year, also operates in France, has franchises in Australia and the United States and exports to over 50 countries globally.
Its smaller peer, AG Barr, best known for its bright orange Irn-Bru drink and exotic juice brand Rubicon, has focused on growing in Britain and is investing 41.5 million pounds in a new manufacturing plant in Milton Keynes, 80 kilometers northwest of London, that could nearly double capacity by 2014.
Britvic's full-year revenue of 1.3 billion pounds, with around 40 percent coming from its agreement with Pepsi, is nearly six times that of Scottish group AG Barr's.
Britvic and AG Barr are required to announce their intentions by October 3.
($1 = 0.6295 pound)
(Additional reporting by Karen Rebelo in Bangalore; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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