Britvic expands Fruit Shoot brand as profit rises

Reuters

* FY operating profit up 18.8 pct to 135 mln stg

* 15-year deal signed with PepsiCo Americas Beverages

* Fruit Shoot rollout to expand from 32 to 41 States in 2014

* Shares reach all-time high

By Neil Maidment

LONDON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - British soft drinks group Britvic said it would ramp up expansion of its Fruit Shootbrand in the United States in 2014, as it posted a 19 percentrise in full-year profit.

The group, which also makes drinks such as Robinsons squashand Tango, as well PepsiCo brands Pepsi and 7UP inBritain and Ireland, said on Tuesday it had signed a 15-yeardeal with PepsiCo Americas Beverages to expand Fruit Shoot.

The 15-year manufacturing and distribution deal will seeFruit Shoot rolled out to 41 U.S states in 2014, up from 32 now.

"(It) sets Fruit Shoot up for long term growth, and clearlysignals the potential that they and we see for the brand in theStates," Chief Executive Simon Litherland said, adding the groupwas also trialling Robinsons squash in one U.S. state.

Britvic said trading in the new fiscal year had startedahead of its first quarter a year ago, helping its shares rise4.5 percent to an all-time high of 635 pence at 0935 GMT.

Having rejected an improved proposal from Irn-Bru maker A.G.Barr for an all-share merger in July, Britvic hasembarked on a cost cutting drive designed to bolster growth inthe UK and Ireland, and is growing its business overseas.

Britvic has expanded in Europe with the launch of FruitShoot in Spain, planning to move into India in mid-2014 and isalso in early talks with potential partners about new markets.

The group posted operating profit for the year to Sept. 29of 135 million pounds ($218 million), up 18.8 percent from 112.7million a year ago and in line with company guidance.

Total group volumes were down 0.4 percent in the year buthigher average prices helped push up margins, boosting revenueby 4.4 percent to 1.32 billion pounds.

Britvic said it was on track to deliver 30 million pounds ofcost savings per annum by 2016, with 10 million being reinvestedinto its international arm. It guided to an operating profit ofbetween 148 and 156 million pounds for the new fiscal year.

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