Britvic, AG Barr merger deal collapses

LONDON Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:13pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - A planned merger between soft drink makers Britvic (BVIC.L) and A.G. Barr (BAG.L) collapsed on Thursday after Britvic rejected a new proposal from its smaller rival.

Britvic had already played down the prospects for reviving the merger talks, which were effectively put on hold earlier this year because of a competition investigation into the proposed deal.

Irn Bru-maker A.G. Barr and Britvic, behind the Robinsons and Tango brands, had agreed an all-share merger in November, which lapsed in February when Britain's competition watchdog launched an investigation. <ID:L6N0FF0MH>

The Competition Commission provisionally cleared the deal in June before giving official approval on Tuesday.

A.G. Barr said following Britain's competition watchdog decision to clear the merger in July, it had made a revised proposal to Britvic which was on more favorable terms for Britvic shareholders than a previous one.

"The Board of Britvic has rejected this proposal. As a result A.G. Barr confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Britvic," A.G. Barr said in a statement.

Britvic said the revised proposal offered its investors a 65 percent share of the combined group, while Barr shareholders would have owned the rest. It said the offer only represented a small improvement on terms announced in November and was at a considerable discount to the two firms' current market values.

Britvic became less enthusiastic about resurrecting the deal after the delay gave it time to step up expansion into overseas markets such as United States, India and Spain. It also launched plans to cut costs, making possible savings from the merger less important.

Under the original terms, investors in Britvic would have owned 63 percent of the combined group. The two together would have been worth about 1.9 billion pounds ($2.9 billion), based on current market values, compared with 1.3 billion when talks first emerged last year.

Shares in Britvic, which have risen almost 74 percent over the past year, were down 2 percent while Barr shares were up 0.1 percent at 11.44 a.m. EDT.

"While we are disappointed that the opportunity to create significant value for both sets of shareholders has been rejected, the board of A.G. Barr has every reason to be confident of its position as a stand-alone company," Barr's Chairman Ronnie Hanna said in a statement.

($1 = 0.6615 British pounds)

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; editing by Sarah Young and Jane Merriman)

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