AG Barr, the soft drinks company, has reported a 4.9% rise in turnover to £130m in the six months to 28 July, although pre-tax profit before exceptional items fell from £16.2m to £14.9m. The firm, whose brands include Irn Bru, Rubicon and Strathmore water, cited a £1m adverse currency movement for the fall in pre-tax profit. On a constant currency basis, pre-tax profits were £300,000 behind the same period last year. Total volumes grew 2.8% in the period. In value terms, carbonates continued to drive the sales rise, with revenues up 5.5% against +1.8% for stills. In the first seven weeks of the current financial year, the firm said it is experiencing double digit sales growth. AG Barr said: “Competition in the soft drinks market has been intense in the six month period, influenced in part by major national events such as the 2012 Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. “However it is the drive to increase volume through promotion by some of our industry competitors which has had the greatest impact on the market. Many major brands have increased the volume of sales promoted through ‘buy one get one free’ and less than half price activity. We have responded in a measured way by selectively increasing our promotional activity to compete for consumers, being very aware of the importance of achieving a sensible balance between good everyday pricing of quality products and maintaining brand equity.” Meanwhile, the company said talks are “on-going” about a potential merger with Britvic, which was announced earlier this month. Basic earnings per share were 10.14p (2011:10.81p). Net debt reduced to £11.4m. AG Barr increased its interim dividend by 7.5% to 2.616p per share. Chief executive Roger White said: “We are particularly pleased with our financial performance given the ongoing challenging trading environment. We have continued to outperform, delivering further consistent growth in volume and value ahead of a market which has seen volume declines in the period. In addition we have maintained investment in the long term equity of all of our core brands. We are excited by the growth possibilities associated with the development of our new site at Milton Keynes which is now under construction. “Whilst we remain cautious regarding the second half, we have strong plans in place and are pleased to report sales in the first seven weeks of the second half have shown double digit growth.”