Danone ends Wahaha dispute, to sell China JV stake

SHANGHAI Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:02am EDT

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - French food group Danone (DANO.PA) will exit its joint ventures with China's Wahaha group to settle their long-running disputes in an amicable manner, the two companies said on Wednesday.

Danone has agreed to sell its 51 percent stake in the ventures to Wahaha, putting an end to all legal proceedings related to the disputes between the two parties, the companies said in separate statements. No financial details were given.

The disputes became public in 2007, when Danone accused Wahaha of illegally setting up parallel businesses outside their ventures, which escalated into a high-profile legal brawl that invited mediation by the Chinese and French governments.

"Danone has a longstanding commitment to China where it has been present since 1987 and we are keen to accelerate the success of our Chinese activities," Danone Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Franck Riboud said in the statement.

"We are confident that Wahaha will continue to be highly successful under its future management guidance."

Zong Qinhou, Chairman of China's biggest beverage maker Wahaha said: "China is an open country. Chinese people are broad-minded people. Chinese companies are willing to cooperate and grow with the world's leading peers on the basis of equality and reciprocal benefit."

(US$1=6.832 Yuan)

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