Published: 21/03/2012 12:30 - Updated: 21/03/2012 13:00

Sangs staff told: your jobs are safe

Written byBy GRAHAM CRAWFORD

THE new owner of the Sangs soft drinks company has given a vote of confidence to the Macduff business and its staff.

Steve Kitching, managing director of Florida-based Cott Beverages, which employs 4,000 people worldwide, visited the Macduff plant last Monday and told the 60-strong staff that their jobs were safe and that there were plans to expand production.

He said: "We are impressed with the employees and brands here. Sangs has committed staff, a well looked-after site, and highly regarded brands.

"It has had problems, but we are confident we can make it a sustainable business.

"We can bring our expertise as a company operating in many markets to create a prosperous future. We see opportunities to expand production, there is spare capacity at the plant, and we see employment continuing at the level it is at now.

"There are a number of things we can do to bring value to the business, but we will take our time to understand it better. There will be no knee-jerk reactions."

Cott Beverages has soft drink, juice, water and other bottling plants in the US, Canada, Mexico and England, and sells in more than 50 countries.

Sangs (Banff), which produces bottled water and fizzy drinks under the Deveron Spring, MacB Solripe and Moray Cup names, was founded in Aberdeen in 1896 and moved to Macduff in 1974.

It was bought by Glasgow businessman Kenny Webster in 2007 for £10 million, but put into administration by Allied Irish Bank in January over uncertainty about meeting its obligations to repay £6.5 million to the bank and £1 million owed to other creditors.

The adminstrator, Zolfo Cooper, said the business had breached its banking covenants on several occasions.

Mr Webster has continued to insist that the firm should never have been put into administration because it was in profit, in growth, had no cash-flow issue and was adhering to a payment plan drawn up with the bank.

The administrator and politicians, like Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, paid tribute last week to the Sangs staff for their commitment to the business throughout the period of uncertainty since January.

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