Nichols has posted a lift in sales for its first half, despite "extremely difficult" trading conditions.

The UK soft drinks company said today (2 August) that profit on continuing activities before tax and exceptional items rose by 14.9% in the first six months of this year, reaching GBP2.77m (US$5.6m). Sales in the period increased by 6%  on the corresponding period a year earlier to GBP27.8m.

The company hailed a "better than expected" start to the year, although May and June saw deep promotional activity and extreme wet weather, "both of which have made trading extremely difficult in the first half of the year", Nichols said.

The company's core Vimto brand, however, continued to grow, particularly in the CSD and ready-to-drink sectors. Internationally, the brand also performed well, especially in the Middle East where sales were helped by the timing of Ramadan in the half.

Company chairman, John Nichols, said: "Although we expect market volatility to continue throughout the second half, we still believe our core brands will continue to perform well in a difficult UK market, and that we will also see growth internationally for the full year."

Nichols is still in talks about a possible takeover, with Irn-Bru owner AG Barr believed to be in discussions with the company. A number of private equity firms are also thought to be interested.

As well as Vimto, Nichols also owns the Panda and Sunkist brands in the UK.