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Market report: Investors lose taste for Irn-Bru maker AG Barr

Joanna Bourke
The soft drink's sugar content is due to be halved: PA Archive/PA Images

Food stores may be rammed with shoppers but there was little thirst from investors to stock up on Irn-Bru maker AG Barr on Wednesday.

The FTSE 250 drinks firm, which is also behind the Rubicon brand, warned it expects there to be “a material adverse impact” to its financial performance for the year to January 2021 from the virus. Some 40% of its sales are “impulse” buys, often from newsagents or convenience stores, which it said had dried up.

Chief executive Roger White said the year had started well but the virus had hit sales. “There is no immediate certainty around the severity and duration of the impact on our business,” he said.

Shares in AG Barr lost 15p, or nearly 3%, to 494p.

White said that while its sales from supermarkets have been robust, the Government-enforced closure of pubs and restaurants where AG Barr’s goods are stocked has hit the company.

AG Barr outlined moves to conserve cash. Its board is not proposing a final dividend and the board and senior executive team have agreed to a voluntary 20% salary reduction for a minimum of three months. White has a basic salary of £451,000.

The FTSE 100 failed to achieve a third day on the up, falling 102.10 points to 5,602.35 as difficulties in agreeing a package of support for the eurozone weighed on markets across Europe.

Recruiters have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis and PageGroup slipped 1.6p to 327p as it cancelled its final dividend, worth £30.2 million, and said it is suspending financial guidance. Its gross profits slumped 26% last month as the coronavirus crisis intensified.

Rival Robert Walters also warmed of challenging times, and said it had put “strong but sensible” cost reduction measures in place. That includes voluntary schemes for employees to adopt reduced working hours, and bosses taking a 20% salary reduction.

That approach appeared welcome and the shares gained 12p to 378p.

Another company on the cash-saving trail was On The Beach. The travel operator will not declare an interim dividend in the current financial year to September.

Its chief executive Simon Cooper is forgoing his salary and the remainder of the board have voluntarily agreed to a 20% reduction in salary and fees. It will not award bonuses this year.

The shares surged 24.3%, or 48.6p, to 248.6p.

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Irn-Bru maker AG Barr increases sales despite "volatile" year