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‘Bitter’ Britvic blow as firm plans to leave historic UK base cutting 230 jobs

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‘Bitter’ Britvic blow as firm plans to leave historic UK base cutting 230 jobs

May 20
11:26 2013

Trade union Unite has described the threat to 290 Britvic jobs across three UK sites as a ‘bitter blow’and aims to talk with management next week in a bid to save the firm’s historic Chelmsford factory.

Unite said its officers in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland hoped to hold similar talks with Britvic management – the firm makes Pepsi, Tango, Fruit Shoot, Robinsons brands – in the near future.

The union’s national officer for food and drink, Jennie Formby, said: “The threat to the jobs at the three sites is a very bitter blow for the workers and their families. We want to analyse the company’s statement fully and consult with our members.”

Strong future as a standalone

Glossing a “number of major initiatives” Panmure Gordon analyst Damien McNeela said they “make the case for the company as a standalone business and target cost savings of £30m by 2016, which compares with the £40m of synergies under the proposed merger with AG Barr.

“This provides the clearest indication that Britvic sees a strong future as a standalone entity,” McNeela added.

Analysts say that Britvic is strengthening its hand in case the UK Competition Commission (CC) rejects its proposed merger with AG Barr – to create an EU drinks firm – announced in November, or to force its rival to agree to a better deal if the CC clears it. A CC ruling is expected in July.

Britvic, under new CEO Simon Litherland, said yesterday that it wanted to close the Chelmsford site in 2014 as rolls out a plan to merge its UK and Ireland operations, which could mean a total of 300-400 job losses.

‘Very profitable company’: Unite

The plan involves cuts totalling £30m over the next three years, as pre-tax profits for the 29 weeks to mid-April hit £37.5m, up 50%, although sales fell 0.3% to £639.2m.

Britvic also plans to close its Pennine Spring water factory in Huddersfield with 40 job losses, and a warehouse in Belfast employing 20 staff.

“It should be remembered that this is a very profitable company and could well afford to keep all these existing operations going,” Formby said.

“Unite will be doing all it can in the coming weeks to support our members through this difficult period.”

Britvic built the Chelmsford site in 1954 – the company was founded in the city in the 19th century – and it manufactures soft drinks in cans, glass and plastic bottles there.

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