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Our leading drinks firm in merger talks
8:00am Thursday 13th September 2012 in Local News
A DRINKS manufacturing giant based in Chelmsford is in possible merger talks worth £1.4billion with another company.
Bosses at Britvic, which has a factory in Widford, are currently in discussion with their counterparts at Scotland-based AG Barr which could see the pair become one the largest soft drink makers in Europe.
A spokesperson for Barr, the producers of Irn Bru and Tizer, confirmed talks were in an “early stage” with the company, which moved out of its HQ in Broomfield Road last year.
Britvic also confirmed the reports, but a spokeswoman said: “The company has no further comment to make at this stage.”
The possible merger was greeted with quiet optimism by Chelmsford Council leader Roy Whitehead, who said it could work well for the city, provided the company stayed put.
Mr Whitehead said: “Obviously we are not sure what effect it will have on Chelmsford’s economy right now, but it could really benefit the area.
“If there was a threat of losing the firm from Chelmsford, we at the council will fight for it to stay and we will be looking at any plans very carefully as we do want the firm to stay here for as long as possible.
“But hopefully it will work the other way round and see more products which are made by Barr start getting produced down here and vice-versa, which would be good for the local economy.”
Shares in both companies soared after news of the talks hit trading floors in the City of London with Britvic seeing its stock rise by 12 per cent and Barr’s increasing by 4 per cent.
The Scottish drinks manufacturer, whose base is in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, was formed in 1875 when Robert Barr embarked on a new direction for the family cork-cutting business.
The change saw the businessman start producing and selling “aerated waters”, as soft drinks were called at the time.
In 1901 the firm started making its most famous drink Iron Brew, using a secret recipe.
In 1947, the name of the drink had to be altered to Irn-Bru due to newly introduced food labelling regulations as although it did contain some iron, it was not brewed.