SOFT drinks company Britvic has reported a 19.7% plunge in annual profit after the recall of its Fruit Shoot children's drink but said production of the beverage should return to previous levels in the new year, when it is due to complete its merger with Irn-Bru maker AG Barr.

Britvic saw its underlying pre-tax profit for the 12 months to the end of September fall from £105.1 million to £84.4m.

Chief executive Paul Moody said: "The progress that we made was more than offset by the impact of the Fruit Shoot product recall.

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"Additionally, the negative macro-economic trends, leading to weak consumer confidence and the cold, wet summer endured across most of our markets, weighed heavily on the soft drinks market."

Britvic, the maker of Tango and Robinsons drinks, this month agreed a £1.4 billion merger with Cumbernauld-based AG Barr.

The deal will see the combined company's legal headquarters located in Scotland but its operational base will be Britvic's home at Hemel Hempstead.

During the year, Britvic paid out £3.1m in advisory fees relating to the AG Barr merger as well as a potential purchase which did not go ahead.

Britvic, which also makes and sells PepsiCo's brands in Britain and Ireland, saw a strong performance in its British carbonated drinks business although this was offset by the recall of Fruit Shoot following a fault with its cap.

The recall cost £16.9m in the year to the end of September and will cost another £8m in the current year.

But Britvic said that it expected production to return to previous levels by January.

The Fruit Shoot problems sent Britvic's revenue down 0.8% to £1.3bn at constant exchange rates.

Britvic's all-share deal with Barr, which is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, will create one of Europe's biggest soft drinks companies, named Barr Britvic Soft Drinks.