Shareholders in two joint ventures between China's Wahaha (娃哈哈) and Danone (達能) are suing the French food company for 10 million yuan (US$1.3 million) for violating their rights, a lawyer said yesterday.
The lawsuit filed in Weifang is the latest action in an extensive and bitter ownership feud over the Wahaha brand name between companies that were once commercial partners in a model of Sino-overseas cooperation.
"Danone has been buying the shares of other companies that compete with Wahaha, this is in violation of its shareholder agreements with Wahaha," Qian Weiqing (
Qian said Danone had bought between 20 percent and 90 percent of seven Chinese name brand food and beverage companies that were directly in competition with Wahaha.
Danone officials were also serving on the boards of both the Danone-Wahaha joint ventures as well as the boards of the other companies that were competing with Wahaha -- a conflict of interest, he said.
Last week, an arbitration commission in Hangzhou, where Wahaha is headquartered, voided the trademark transfer agreement between the two companies that dated back to 1996, in a major loss to Danone.
Danone immediately said it would appeal the Hangzhou court decision, citing errors in fact and protectionism.
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