The sale of UK soft drinks group Nichols now appears unlikely, just-drinks understands.

A number of parties, including Irn-Bru maker AG Barr, are believed to be in talks with the Nichols family over a potential acquisition of the Vimto producer. However, an industry source has told just-drinks that AG Barr's interest seems to have cooled despite having conducted "early due diligence" on Nichols.

The source also said that a number of private equity firms remain interested in Nichols but that the Nichols family, which controls nearly 40% of the company, is happy to retain ownership.

UK-based Nichols saw profits jump almost 16% last year as its focus on soft drinks paid off. The company posted a 15.8% rise in pre-tax profits to just under GBP7m (US$13.5m). Revenues, meanwhile, inched up 1.6% to GBP52.3m during 2006.

The jump in earnings came from Nichols' move to focus on two areas - soft drinks and its dispense systems business.