Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Official: China to insist on principle of market-oriented economy on Huiyuan-Coca-Cola union

As Coca-Cola Co. seeks to acquire China''s largest juice company Huiyuan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said the government would insist on the principals of market-oriented economy under the legal process.

In an interview with Xinhua on the occasion of the 12th Xiamen International Fair for Investment and Trade in the southeast Fujian Province, spokesman Yao Shenhong said the ministry "would review the case of Coca-Cola''s acquisition of Huiyuan" and it was against monopoly while supporting "normal economic activities."

"Once we receive the application we will start the antitrust review," Yao told Xinhua.

Coca-Cola Co. said on Sept. 3 it had offered to buy Huiyuan for the equivalent of 2.4 billion U.S. dollars in cash. If successful, it would be the second-largest acquisition in the company''s history.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based company said the offer needed to be approved by the Chinese government.

The prospects of approval were unclear with much speculation emerging. In July, China turned down an offer by the Carlyle Group,a U.S.-based private equity company, to acquire Xugong Group Construction Machinery Co.

Both the Office of Anti-monopoly Investigations and Department of Treaty and Law in Ministry of Commerce, and Coca-Cola public affairs director Li Xiaoyun confirmed the company hadn''t submitted the application as of Wednesday.

Li said Coke was preparing the required materials and data for the application.

"The review of anti-monopoly has nothing to do with suspicion of monopoly but were simply required when the related companies reached the criterion in the laws," said Li, who also goes by the name Brenda Lee.

"This is a very normal process," she told Xinhua in a phone interview. "We simply submitted the materials according to the antitrust laws."

Any concentration should be reviewed when it has a global trade volume of 10 billion yuan and the total domestic trade volume of the two sides exceeds 400 million yuan in the previous financial year, according to the Anti-monopoly Law of the People''s Republic of China implemented onAug. 1, and the Guidelines on Anti-monopoly Filings for Mergers and Acquisitions of Domestic Enterprises by Foreign Investors issued in March last year.

The examination should happen when the total trade volume of all the related companies exceeded 2 billion yuan in the last financial year and the trade volume of the two sides in China exceeded 400 million yuan.

The law was welcomed by senior leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. Coca-Cola was one of its members.

"Frankly, we welcome the new anti-monopoly law as it brings transparency to acquisition cases in China. We welcome the transparency," said AmCham chairman Norwell Coquillard at the Xiamen Fair.

"We understand the environment we invest in. We had estimated the market share of Huiyuan and Coca-Cola, which had reach the criterion, so we understand it has to be done," said Norwell, also the Cargill Investment Ltd president.

Since the antitrust law was a new law, Coca-Cola''s case would test the regulations, he noted.

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