French food giant Danone said yesterday it had ended its longstanding feud with Wahaha (娃哈哈), China’s largest soft drink maker, by agreeing to sell its 51 percent stake in their joint ventures.
The “amicable settlement” between the companies, which together ran 39 joint ventures, is subject to Chinese regulatory approval but has the support of Paris and Beijing, the companies said in a joint statement.
“The completion of this settlement will put an end to all legal proceedings related to the disputes between the two parties,” they said.
The statement did not give any financial details of the deal, and Wahaha spokesman Shan Qining (單啟寧) declined to release any figures.
The feud began when Danone said it had discovered that Wahaha chairman Zong Qinghou (宗慶后) had set up an entire production and distribution network in parallel to the French firm’s joint ventures with Wahaha.
Zong founded Wahaha in 1987 selling milk products in a school store.
Danone and Wahaha formed their joint venture in 1996, and the Chinese drink maker credits the foreign investment and technology it gained through that partnership with helping to transform it into a national brand.
In mid-2007, the French firm sought an arbitration ruling, accusing the Chinese beverage giant of breach of agreement by selling Wahaha-branded drinks without its permission.
“The collaboration between Danone and Wahaha helped to build a strong and respected leader in the Chinese beverage industry,” Danone chairman and chief executive Franck Riboud said in the statement. “We are confident that Wahaha will continue to be highly successful under its future management.”
Danone remains committed to China, Riboud said, adding the company was “keen to accelerate the success of our Chinese activities.”
The dispute had sparked a series of retaliatory moves in China and abroad, including in the US and Sweden.
A Chinese court ruled last year that Wahaha owned the trademark, which was valued by the state-controlled China Daily newspaper at US$2.4 billion.
The feud between the two companies was at turns bitter and personal, with Danone trying to install a French executive to replace Zong as chairman in mid-2007. Zong fought off the move, declaring it illegal.
The dispute also struck a nationalist chord, with Zong accusing his French partners of trying to steal a Chinese brand. But the Wahaha chairman yesterday took a more friendly tone.
“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,” Zong said.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no