DRINK manufacturing giant Britvic has agreed to merge with a rival firm in a deal worth £1.5billion.

The Chelmsford-based company who produce J2O and Tango has signed the deal with Scottish business AG Barr, who make Irn Bru, to create one of Europe’s largest soft drink firms.

They will now operate under the banner of Barr Britvic Soft Drinks plc.

Around 500 jobs are likely to be cut from the combined workforce of 4,000 people as bosses look to reduce staffing levels down by between eight to 12 per cent.

Gerald Corbett, Britvic’s non-executive chairman, said: “The merger of A.G. Barr and Britvic will create a world class soft drinks company.

“AG Barr and Britvic are a fantastic fit with complementary strengths in products, channels and geographies and we will benefit from very significant synergies.”

A spokesman said the job losses will take place over the next three years, but it is “unclear” how many will be cut from each firm.

Roy Whitehead, Chelmsford Council leader, said it is important for the new company to spell out their plans for the city.

Mr Whitehead said: “Britvic and Chelmsford simply go together and we at the council will want to sit down with the company bosses to see what there plans are for the city as soon as possible.”