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Coca-Cola 'won't adjust Huiyuan offer'despite weak stock market
Updated: 2008-12-03 09:55

Coca-Cola Co on Tuesday said it will not revise its offer for China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd. despite the weak equities market.

Li Xiaojun, vice president of Coca-Cola China, said that the world's beverage giant is still confident about the outlook for Huiyuan's juice business.

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In a joint statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday, the two companies said China's Ministry of Commerce is still reviewing the application for anti-trust approval. The review will continue until March 23, 2009.

Coca-Cola will make further announcements after the anti-trust review, Li said.

The offer has received support from more than 60 percent of Huiyuan's shareholders.

Coca-Cola said on September 3 it had offered to buy Huiyuan, the nation's largest juice maker, for HK$17.92 billion (US$2.3 billion) in cash. The bid was HK$12.2 per share, tripling the Beijing-based company's closing price of HK$4.14 on September 2.

The acquisition was considered to be a major opportunity for the soft drink giant to expand its non-carbonated drinks market in China, as the sales of carbonated drinks slowed.

"Huiyuan is a well-established and successful brand in China and it is a supplement to Coca-Cola's China operations," Li said.

The offer triggered controversy as Chinese juice producers and consumers expressed concern about possible monopoly power and the loss of a renowned domestic brand.

Wang Zhongming, research center director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, told a forum on Tuesday the offer shows Coca-Cola's confidence in Chinese market and there shouldn't be fear over acquisitions by multinationals.

Huiyuan closed 2.89 percent higher at HK$9.60 in Hong Kong on Tuesday after the joint announcement, when the Hang Seng index lost 5 percent on recession fears.

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