British regulator stymies $2.2-bn Britvic - A G Barr merger

The British regulator yesterday raised concerns over the £1.4-billion ($2.2 billion) merger of domestic soft drinks companies Britvic and A G Barr, delivering a blow to their well laid out plan to become Europe's biggest soft drinks company.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) yesterday said that it will ask the Competition Commission to launch a probe into the merger since it could not rule out the possibility prices would rise if it allowed the deal to go ahead.

In September 2012, Barr, maker of Irn-Bru and Robinsons and Tango owner Britvic agreed to merge in a £1.4-billion deal. The transaction has been approved by the boards of both companies and was awaiting regulatory approval.

If the deal were to go ahead, Britvic shareholders would own 63 per cent of the merged entity, with AG Barr investors holding the balance 37 per cent.

After extending the closing of the deal twice and though the merger has now lapsed after the OFT's decision, both companies said that they would fight the ruling.

Scotland-based AG Barr has brands including Irn Bru, Tizer, Barr's Originals, Strathmore Spring Water, St Clements juice drinks, Simply juice drinks, Sun Exotic and Rubicon exotic juice drinks.