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Britvic expands Fruit Shoot roll-out as profit rises

LONDON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - British soft drinks group Britvic posted an 18.8 percent rise in annual operating profit and said it would further expand its Fruit Shoot brand in the United States.

The maker of Robinsons squash and Tango said on Tuesday operating profit in the year to Sept. 29 was 135 million pounds ($218.08 million), up from 112.7 million a year ago and in line with company guidance.

Revenue rose 4.4 percent to 1.32 billion pounds, helped by a strong fourth quarter when a hot summer and the recovery of its Fruit Shoot brand after last year's recall boosted trade. Its operating margin rose 120 basis points to 10.4 percent.

Having rejected an improved proposal from Irn-Bru maker A.G. Barr for an all-share merger in July, Britvic has ramped up its expansion in the U.S., moved into Spain and will launch Fruit Shoot in India in mid-2014 to help grow its business.

On Tuesday the firm said it had signed a new 15-year bottling agreement with PepsiCo Americas Beverages for further manufacturing and distribution in the U.S., which will see Fruit Shoot rolled out to 41 states during 2014, up from 32.

The firm has also outlined a cost cutting drive, which it said was on track to deliver 30 million pounds of cost savings per annum by 2016.

Britvic said trading in the new financial year had started ahead of its first quarter a year ago, and added that it was confident of delivering operating profit of between 148 and 156 million pounds for the new fiscal year.