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Barr chiefs will be fizzing at OFT move

AGENDA is wondering if the subdued mergers market has rendered the Office of Fair Trading rusty in light of its decision to refer the Barr/Britvic soft drinks tie-up to the Competition Commission.

The two companies' combined share of the market would only be 14%, which is both miles below the usual 30% red line and also half the market share of all-powerful Coca-Cola.

While analysts have been scratching their heads, the decision has rubbed more than £200 million off the combined value of the two firms. To these eyes, the OFT must be taking a helluva bullish view as to the growth potential of Irn-Bru and Rubicon once they get into Britvic's distribution.

The deal will now disappear into the long grass for six months. Most observers believe it will still get the nod in the end, but one imagines that Britvic might end up getting a better deal than that negotiated so far. Already between the deal announcement in September and its conclusion a couple of months later, Barr had had to concede that the operational HQ would be in south-east England. This raised fears the Scottish base would cease to matter one or two chief executives down the line.

For now, Agenda imagines that one word would sum up current incumbent Roger White's mood this weekend: Fizzing.

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