* OFT refers deal to Competition Commission
* Offer period lapses for merger
* Britvic appoints new CEO
LONDON, Feb 13 A merger between British soft
drinks companies Britvic and A.G. Barr hangs in
the balance after Britain's consumer affairs watchdog referred
the deal to the Competition Commission.
The companies said that the 1.4 billion pound ($2.2 billion)
merger has now lapsed and they will make a joint announcement
after conducting a combined review of the full decision by the
Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
"We're in the long grass for at least nine months," Britvic
Chairman Gerald Corbett told Reuters on Wednesday.
"We'll be going into that meeting with the perspective that
the deal is a really good one for shareholders and has
compelling industrial logic and strengthens us against the
mighty Coca-Cola company."
The deal, which had been approved by shareholders, could
create one of Europe's biggest drinks companies.
Britvic produces PepsiCo Inc brands such as Pepsi,
Mountain Dew Energy and 7UP in Britain and Ireland, as well as
products such as Robinsons squash and Tango. A.G. Barr's most
famous brand is Irn-Bru, dubbed Scotland's national drink.
However, the OFT drew attention to competition concerns over
"Our investigation has identified competition concerns
relating to this deal with respect to Barr's Irn-Bru and
Orangina brands, which could lead to higher prices for
consumers," Amelia Fletcher, the OFT's chief economist, said in
In a separate statement, Britvic announced the appointment
of Simon Litherland as its chief executive with immediate effect
and guided towards full-year earnings before interest and tax in
the range of 125 million pounds to 131 million pounds.
A.G. Barr's CEO Roger White had been named to lead the
combined group when Britvic agreed the terms of the deal in