* China's state TV accuses French group of bribery
* Danone says "shocked", will investigate accusations
* Chinese authorities cracking down on graft
SHANGHAI/PARIS, Sept 16 Chinese state TV said on
Monday that Danone had bribed hospital staff to give
its milk powder to new-born babies, allegations that the French
food group said it was shocked by and would investigate
China Central Television (CCTV) cited an unidentified former
Dumex sales manager as saying the company had paid medical staff
at a city hospital in Tianjin to promote its products.
Milk powder is a highly sensitive topic in China after a
scandal in 2008 when melamine added to baby milk killed at least
six children and left thousands ill.
This damaged the reputation of local firms and boosted
international brands' market share.
Chinese authorities have been cracking down in recent months
on graft in various industries, with foreign companies such as
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and Germany's Bayer
in regulators' sights. Autos, telecommunications and
banks may come next, regulators have suggested.
Local and foreign-owned milk powder firms, including Danone,
were fined a record amount in August for price fixing.
The former Dumex sales manager, cited by CCTV, said that
that company gave several hundred thousand yuan in "gifts" to
the hospital every year.
CCTV said the man had a document detailing payments to
doctors, with their bank card details and amounts paid.
The document, which CCTV said it had seen, showed staff at
the hospital had received about 300,000 yuan ($49,000) in total
each month from Dumex, with individual payments ranging from
several hundred yuan to about 10,000 yuan.
"Dumex China pays great attention to and is extremely
shocked by the CCTV report... We will immediately launch an
investigation," Dumex said in a statement passed on by a Danone
SA spokeswoman in Paris on Monday.
"Dumex Baby Food Co strictly adheres to Chinese laws and
regulations," she said.
Corruption in China's healthcare industry is widespread,
fuelled in part by low base salaries for doctors at the
country's 13,500 public hospitals.
International guidelines, used in China, say doctors should
promote breastfeeding unless there are medical reasons not to.
Mothers, meanwhile, were discouraged from breastfeeding,
according to the CCTV report, which also quoted a nurse at the
hospital as saying that formula-milk makers had been bribing
them to recommend their products to mothers.
China is an important market for Danone's baby-nutrition
division, which accounted for 20 percent of overall revenues in
2012. Danone praised "a very strong performance" in China in its
annual results statement, citing the success of "a complete
revamp of the Dumex range".
Danone had a 9.2 percent share by retail value of China's
$12.4 billion formula milk market in 2012, according to data
from market research firm Euromonitor.