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Dickson Minto faces delay over Barr merger fee

SCOTTISH law firm Dickson Minto will have to wait slightly longer for confirmation of a success fee believed to be around £1 million after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) delayed its decision on AG Barr's planned £1.6 billion merger with Britvic.

Scottish soft drinks manufacturer AG Barr told the stock market yesterday the anticipated effective date of its merger with larger English-based rival Britvic would no longer be January 30, after being advised the OFT had extended its timetable for a decision.

The OFT has to rule on whether or not it is likely there is a serious prospect the deal might lead to a substantial lessening of competition. It said yesterday it now expected to make a decision on the merger on February 13, having given an anticipated date of January 17 previously.

AG Barr shares were little moved by the news, signalling investors had no significant concerns over the delay in securing competition clearance.

A spokesman for the OFT said: "You shouldn't read anything into this change of date. It is not unusual for timetables to be changed in merger assessment cases."

A shareholder circular on the merger issued by Britvic puts AG Barr's expected fees and expenses for legal advice in connection with the merger at between £700,000 and £1.75m with "the variable component of these fees ... dependent upon the successful completion of the merger".

AG Barr names Edinburgh-based Dickson Minto as its legal adviser in its circular on the merger. No-one at Dickson Minto was available for comment.

Britvic's circular puts AG Barr's expected fees and expenses for financial and corporate broking advice in connection with the merger at between zero and £5m, with the variable component dependent on successful completion of the merger. AG Barr names Rothschild of London as its financial adviser.

A spokeswoman for AG Barr said yesterday: "The OFT have to go through their usual processes. They haven't yet concluded those. We were notified late on Friday, hence we felt it was prudent to put an announcement out today."

Asked about the OFT's deliberations last week, after a meeting at which AG Barr investors approved the merger, the Irn-Bru manufacturer's chief executive Roger White replied: "We wait, as we go through the process with them."

AG Barr shares eased by 5.3p to 490p yesterday.

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