Suitors woo Huiyuan after Coke flop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2009, 12:00am

China Huiyuan Juice Group says it has been approached by more investors after Beijing blocked Coca-Cola's HK$19.65 billion takeover of the mainland's biggest pure juice maker.

'After the failed deal, we've met more suitors, although we have not reached the stage of planning a marriage,' said chairman Zhu Xinli.

For now, the company would be concentrating on sales of diluted juice drinks, he added.

It was Mr Zhu's first public appearance in Hong Kong as the company reported a 27.04 per cent drop in net profit last year to 233.07 million yuan (HK$264.37 million) from 319.47 million yuan a year earlier.

It has been rumoured that Taiwanese food and beverage company Uni-President, the parent of Hong Kong-listed Uni-President China Holdings; Cofco Group, the mainland's largest food importer and exporter; and Pepsi of the United States, are all interested in buying a stake in Huiyuan.

A spokesman for Cofco's food and beverage subsidiary, China Foods, said she was unaware of the possible stake sale. Pepsi and Uni-President spokesmen declined to comment.

Mr Zhu said he had no feelings about the failed Coke deal since he was racing to improve Huiyuan's sales performance.

Although it has retained the top ranking in the pure juice market, Huiyuan saw sales of its pure juice products decline 2.4 per cent to 582 million yuan from 596 million yuan the previous year.

Huiyuan said it would slash capital expenditure and focus on establishing distribution and marketing channels for diluted juice drinks.

Capital expenditure will be reduced to about 200 million yuan from 1.32 billion yuan last year.

Mr Zhu said he aimed to move Huiyuan up from fourth in the mainland juice drinks rankings.