BVI court 'freezes assets of Wahaha assets'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2007, 12:00am

Groupe Danone said assets of Wahaha's 10 offshore companies were frozen until further order from British Virgin Islands(BVI) court, after the mainland's State Trademark Office turned down a transfer of the Wahaha brand to the venture between the two disputing parties.

The offshore companies, which registered in BVI, have been placed receivership until their real ownership is clarified.

Michael Zhu, a Danone said the move was part of Danone's legal strategy against Wahaha.

The BVI court apparently took action because it could not find out the shareholder details for the 10 offshore companies. A person called Jack Chan was named originally as their legal representative but last year the representative was changed Yau Lan-lee.

Mr Zhu explained only a legal representative was required to register the BVI companies. No details of the real shareholders were needed.

Wahaha could not be reached for comment.

Information obtained from Danone showed that the primary role of KPMG would be to identify, locate and secure the companies' assets until further notice.

According to a report of 21st Century Business Herald, the 10 offshore companies have invested in 23 out of 40 branches that did not belong to the joint venture. It is estimated that these branches contributed largely to the group's net profit.

Danone, which holds 51 per cent of the joint venture, Hangzhou Wahaha Food & Beverage Sales illegally 'products that are the same as those sold by Wahaha joint ventures and is making unlawful use of the joint ventures' distributors and suppliers.

Wahaha in June its non-joint venture businesses were entitled to use the Wahaha brand freely, except when the joint-venture board disagreed or when using the name would hurt the brand value.

In June, Danone filed a complaint in the Superior Court of California's County of Los Angeles against BVI-based Ever Maple Trading, Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage and two persons related to the companies.

Ever Maple Trading, with its registered address in Los Angeles, was the controlling shareholder of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage, the parent company of Danone's joint-venture partner, Hangzhou Wahaha Food and Beverage Sales.

Mr Zhu said the action taken to freeze the offshore companies was not directly related to the previous lawsuit.