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AG Barr chairman to step down

Ronnie Hanna, chairman of AG Barr, told shareholders at the Scottish group’s annual meeting on Tuesday that he would be stepping down at the end of the year. The news follows last month’s announcement by Alex Short, the finance director, that he would be leaving. The company is the maker of Irn-Bru, the orange fizzy drink that outsells Coca-Cola in Scotland. In 2012 the two men were instrumental in a £1.4bn takeover bid for Britvic , the group’s rival soft drinks producer based in southern England.

The deal went flat last summer after Britvic rejected a new offer, following referral and clearance of the original bid by the Competition Commission. Mr Hanna said at the time that AG Barr, which makes 40 per cent of its sales in Scotland, could be confident of a standalone future. Roger White, chief executive, said the impending departures were “pretty run of the mill” and that the group, based in Cumbernauld near Glasgow, had put in place succession planning. He was not planning to leave, he said.

Mr White refused to be drawn on the potential impact on the business of September’s referendum on Scottish independence, saying: “We will wait and see. We will adapt and act accordingly.” The group, which also makes Rubicon and Orangina drinks, issued a trading statement in which it said increased marketing and promotions had helped sales to rise by 5.2 per cent in the 15 weeks to 11 May, outperforming a 1.9 per cent rise in the soft drinks market.

Mr Hanna, 71, a former chief executive of the housebuilder Bett Brothers, has been on the AG Barr board for 11 years and has chaired it for the past five. John Nicolson, a non-executive director since January last year, will replace Mr Hanna when he leaves. Until then he will serve as deputy chairman.

Mr Short, 46, a former executive at William Grant, the Scotch whisky group, is leaving AG Barr to become finance director at Edrington, the privately held whisky maker. He is likely to leave at the end of August, after a successor has been found.
Mr White said profit margins were in line with expectations and that he was confident of meeting full-year targets, despite a “volatile and competitive” retail and consumer climate.

Source: - 27 May 2014