Irn-Bru owners in £1.4bn merger talks

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By Andrew Redmond Barr

The company behind Scotland’s unofficial national drink Irn-Bru has announced it is in merger discussions with Britvic, the drinks company behind Tango.

AG Barr said it was in the early stages of discussions with Essex-based Britvic, for a potential merger worth £1.4 billion.

In a joint statement, AG Barr and Britvic said a merger would: “represent an opportunity for both companies to enhance their industry position, and achieve significant synergies and shareholder value”.

Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish National Party MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, where AG Barr is based, has written to the owners of the company seeking assurances that a merger will not negatively impact local employment.

He said:

“I am open to the idea of AG BARR growing and developing which will help Scotland’s other national drink become even more popular than it already is.

“However, my prime concern is that jobs stay here at the plant in Cumbernauld. It is absolutely vital that any merger doesn’t have a negative impact on employment.

“For this reason I am writing to the owners of the AG BARR plant and will be seeking clarification and assurances on this matter.”

Britvic and AG Barr have already agreed that should a merger occur, Britvic shareholders would own a majority of the enlarged company at 63 per cent. AG Barr shareholders would own the rest.

Robin Barr stepped down as AG Barr chairman in 2009, passing the role outside the Barr family for the first time in the company’s history.

Mr Barr, however, remains only one of three people in the world to know the secret formula for Irn-Bru. It is hoped the tight pact of secrecy surrounding the recipe and its unique brand would not be threatened by any merger.

The company has its roots in 1875 when Robin Barr’s great-grandfather Robert Barr began selling soft drinks, known then as ‘aerated waters’.

‘Iron Brew’ was first sold by Andrew Barr in 1901 and grew to become Scotland’s ‘other’ national drink from the 20th century onwards.