Restructuring charges in Ireland have seen Britvic report flat net profits for its fiscal first-half, but the group reported an improving soft drinks market in the UK. 

Net profits for the 28 weeks to 13 April were flat at GBP4.9m (US$7.6m) against the same period a year earlier, Britvic said today (20 May). Excluding charges relating to a restrucuturing programme in Ireland, profits rose by 14% to GBP14.8m.

Net sales rose by around 6% to reach GBP483.2m, compared to GBP454.7m last year, said the firm, which is the UK's largest soft drinks maker and owns the licence to PepsiCo brands in the UK and Ireland.

Britvic's share price rose by around 10% on the London Stock Exchange this morning, to GBP3.01, after the group said that it saw improvements on the UK soft drinks market, despite the economic recession in the country.

"The first half of our year has been a period of modest decline in the Great Britain (GB) soft drinks market and a substantial decline in Ireland.  However, we have seen mildly improving growth trends evident in the second quarter in GB," said the firm, which also owns the Robinsons squash brand.

The GB market for still drinks fell by 6% in volume and 6.5% in value for the six-month period, although squash drinks rose in value by 3.7%, Britvic said. The group said that its own stills volume sales rose by 6% for period and that value sales increased by 4.3%.

In carbonates, volume sales across the GB market were up 0.2% for the half-year, with this rising to 2.2% in the most recent four weeks. Britvic's own carbonates sales rose by 7.5% and 10% by volume and value respectively.

The situation remains tougher in Ireland, with grocery soft drinks sales down by 4% and on-trade sales down by 20% for the six-month period. Britvic's total volumes in Ireland fell by 4.8% for the six months.

However, restructuring initiatives in Ireland, including 145 job cuts, will see Britvic save EUR27m annually by 2011, it said.

Going forward, Britvic said that it remains confident of meeting its full-year earnings targets.