Hemel Hempstead drinks giant plans to merge with rival

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A proposed merger involving soft drink giant Britvic could see job losses at the company’s new base in Hemel Hempstead.

Bosses at the new company, to be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks, have made a commitment to put the operational base of the new £1.5billion firm at Breakspear Park but a spokesman said it is too early to say what the implications will be.

At an announcement to the City earlier this week, the company said it wished to retain the Scottish headquarters of AG Barr, maker of IRN BRU because of the firm’s Scottish heritage but that Hemel Hempstead would carry out functions such as marketing.

The newly merged company, which includes brands including Robinsons, Tango, J2O, Fruit Shoot and 7UP is looking to save £40 million each year by 2016. It plans to do this by saving money by cutting out duplications and so-called back office functions.

Industry watchers reckon up to 2016 between 350 and 500 jobs could go from the two companies which together currently employ 4,280 people. A spokesman for Britvic was unable to say how many people are currently employed at the Hemel Hempstead base which relocated from Chelmsford earlier this year.

The proposed merger has to be approved by both companies’ shareholders and by the Office of Fair Trading because of possible implications for customers in the soft drinks market. If the proposal passes those hurdles the merger could start in February 2013.

Roger White, chief executive of AG Barr, said the proposal was a “compelling and great opportunity” which has been contemplated for “many, many years”.