Responding to criticism, the Ministry of Commerce yesterday said its decision to reject Coca-Cola's HK$19.65 billion bid for China Huiyuan Juice Group was not based on nationalist grounds but on the takeover's impact on competition. 'Whether the Huiyuan brand is homegrown is not what the anti-monopoly review needs to consider and is not relevant to the decision to block the deal,' the ministry said in a statement on its website yesterday. The ministry said it needed to consider the impact of a brand on competition, especially with regard to fast-moving consumer goods such as juice as brand loyalty made it difficult for newcomers to enter the market. Last week's rejection of what would have been the biggest foreign takeover on the mainland has raised concerns of nationalism and protectionism. The deal was announced in September last year, sparking a public outcry on the mainland at the prospect of a well-known domestic brand falling into foreign hands. Some internet commentators said the rejection was a victory for populists armed with strong nationalistic sentiment. Peter Wang, a partner in charge at law firm Jones Day, said: 'The real question is whether there was sufficient evidence to support the ministry's relatively aggressive antitrust theories. At this point, only the ministry and the [involved] parties know the answer to that.' The ministry yesterday also reiterated that the rejection was not intended to discourage foreign investment in China. However, it did not disclose the contents of its discussion with Coca-Cola on modified proposals, citing confidentiality. 'Although we would all like greater transparency, the ministry has a fair point that it is required by law to maintain the confidentiality of ... the parties' submissions, although that should not prevent the ministry from providing more details about the information upon which it relied,' Mr Wang said.