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Huiyuan still on lookout for investors

SHARES of China's Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd gained 0.44 percent yesterday after media reports said the company may continue to seek other investors after a buyout bid by Coca-Cola Co was rejected by the central government.

The nation's biggest pure juice maker is considering new investors, the China Business News reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources.

Instead of selling the entire stake, the company may sell part of its stake or form joint ventures with new partners to get around China's Anti-Monopoly Law, the paper added, citing industrial analysts.

Taiwan-based Uni-President Enterprises Co and Pepsi Co are among firms that may buy a stake in Huiyuan, the Shanghai-based newspaper added, without giving sources.

Shares of Huiyuan closed at HK$4.62 (60 US cents). Phone calls to Huiyuan's spokesperson went unanswered.

The Ministry of Commerce on March 18 announced Coke's proposed US$2.4-billion deal to take over Huiyuan failed to pass its Anti-Monopoly Law as the merger may harm market competition. The deal would have been the biggest acquisition in China's food and beverage industry and the largest takeover by Coke in the country if it was approved.

"Huiyuan needs money when it is diversifying to the more competitive diluted juice market as the high-end pure juice market gets mature," said Wang Shuang, an analyst from TX Investment Co Ltd.

Zhu Xinli, chairman of Huiyuan, earlier said he plans to focus on raw materials in the future due to furious market competition in the juice market.

Uni-President might be one of the potential buyers as a senior official said Huiyuan is an ideal target. Formerly, investments by Taiwan-based companies in the Chinese mainland were not allowed to exceed 40 percent of its net assets, but the rule has been eased, the China Business News said.


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