Britvic sales hit by recall impact

BritvicRobinsons parent company Britvic said UK sales of its squash and fruit juices plunged 14% over the summer following the recall of newly-designed bottles of its Fruit Shoot drink.

The J20 and Tango drinks firm confirmed the recall cost it around 2% in full year sales growth across the group after withdrawing all bottles of the children's drink and spin-off Fruit Shoot Hydro in July due to safety concerns with faulty caps.
Britvic has already warned the episode will wipe between £15 million and £25 million from profits over this financial year and next.

But Britvic said talks over a £1.4 billion merger with Irn-Bru maker AG Barr were ongoing as a Takeover Panel deadline looms for the two groups to finalise a deal by the end of this month. The proposed merger would create one of the leading soft drinks companies in Europe, with other brands including Barr's Tizer and Rubicon fruit juice.

Britvic said revenue fell 0.8% over the year to September 30 to £1.26 billion, "primarily" due to the Fruit Shoot recall. It took six weeks to resume production with a new type of cap, while it will take up to January to return to previous levels of demand, according to Britvic.

The blow came on top of poor trading due to bad early summer weather and low consumer spending, which it said earlier this year would leave profits at the bottom end of City expectations before the recall hit.

UK fourth quarter sales slumped by 4.3%. Sales in Ireland also fell 8.5% in the fourth quarter and by 9.5% over the full year as consumers continued to rein in their spending.

The average shopping trip spend is now at its lowest level since 2005 in Ireland, according to Britvic. Sales in France and elsewhere internationally were more robust, up 8% and 0.7% over the full year respectively, despite the recall impact.

Shares in the Chelmsford-based company, which also makes Pepsi and 7UP under licence, fell 1% after the full year update.

Analysts at Cannacord Equity said annual sales were less than they expected and said all eyes were now on the planned merger with AG Barr. They added the deal would be the "best result for Britvic shareholders".
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