SHANGHAI: French food and
beverage giant Groupe Danone SA yesterday called on Chinese drinks maker Wahaha
to ensure the smooth operation of their joint ventures as the long-simmering
tensions between the two companies could hurt sales.
Danone, which owns 51 percent of the 39 joint ventures it has with its
estranged partner Wahaha, also expressed shock yesterday at Wahaha's decision to
reveal information from the joint ventures' board meetings, which ended on June
21. The information should have been kept confidential.
"What has taken us by great surprise is that (Wahaha) publicized in an
incomplete way the important contents discussed during the meetings - only
several hours after they ended," the French company said in a statement
delivered via Ogilvy Public Relations.
For their part, directors of Wahaha, without identifying themselves,
yesterday released a detailed account of the friction during the meetings.
According to Wahaha, Danone hired a dozen bodyguards to observe the meetings,
which took place at the Hangzhou headquarters of Wahaha Group. They said the
Chinese side alerted police after Emmanuel Faber, the French company's
Asia-Pacific region president, left without notifying the Chinese directors.
"Don't measure our noble heart by your own petty mind," the board members
were quoted as saying in the statement.
The feud surfaced as Zong Qinghou, founder of Wahaha, rejected Danone's bid
to buy out some of Wahaha's assets, while Danone alleged that some companies
linked to Zong's family are selling Wahaha-branded products identical to those
marketed by their joint ventures.
The dispute heated up after Danone filed a lawsuit in the US, and the
62-year-old Zong resigned as chairman of the venture early this