Dec 2, 2008

Business - Coca-Cola's bid for Chinese juice maker under review: companies

BEIJING (AFP) – The Chinese government is conducting an anti-monopoly review of Coca-Cola's multi-billion-dollar takeover bid for the Huiyuan Juice Group, the two companies said in a joint statement Tuesday.

"The application under (China's) Anti-Monopoly Law has been submitted to the Ministry of Commerce. The approval process is progressing and we are working in full cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce," said the statement.

Coca-Cola announced in September plans to buy Hong Kong-listed Huiyuan, which controls more than 40 percent of the Chinese market for pure juice, for 2.4 billion dollars.

If approved, it would be Coca-Cola's largest acquisition in China and, according to analysts, the biggest ever foreign takeover of a Chinese firm.

The anti-trust review is required by Chinese rules as the combined global turnover of the two firms was more than 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion dollars) in 2007, and as they each made over 400 million yuan in China.

The commerce ministry has said it would review the takeover according to the principles of a market-oriented economy.

Analysts have said the planned deal is a litmus test of China's anti-monopoly law that took effect in August.

The bid has until March 23 to pass the review, according to the statement.

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