DRINKS groups Britvic and AG Barr today warned of likely job losses as they unveiled details of a £1.4billion merger deal.

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The companies, which had previously confirmed they were in talks, said the proposed tie-up would create one of Europe’s leading soft drinks firms with annual sales of more than £1.5bn.

However, the merger will come at the expense of up to 500 jobs after the two companies forecast a reduction of between 8% and 12% in their combined headcount of just over 4,000 people.

Hertfordshire-based Britvic, whose brands include Robinsons, Fruit Shoot, R Whites and Tango, has around 3,300 staff, including production sites at Chelmsford and Norwich.

AG Barr, which dates back to 1875 and also makes Irn Bru, Tizer and Rubicon, has just under 1,000 employees.

It was confirmed today that Britvic shareholders will own 63% of the new company, to be called Barr Britvic Soft Drinks, with AG Barr holding the rest. The deal is still subject to shareholder approval.

Britvic traces its origins back to a chemist in Chelmsford in the mid-19th century but it was not until 1949 that a range of juices were launched under the name British Vitamin Products.

In 1971, The British Vitamin Product Company formally changed its name to Britvic.

Britvic acquired the UK licence for Dr Pepper in 1982 and the Tango brand in 1986, and it was awarded a bottling arrangement for Pepsi and 7UP in Great Britain in 1987. The Robinsons brand was bought by Britvic in 1995 from Reckitt & Colman.

Barr, which is based at Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, has produced Irn-Bru from a secret recipe for more than 130 years.

Chairmanship of the company passed outside the family for the first time in 2009 when Robin Barr ended his 31-year tenure. He remains on the company’s board as a non-executive director and is one of just three people to know the formula of 32 ingredients used in the drink.

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