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Danone and Zong Part Ways
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French food and beverage maker Groupe Danone SA said yesterday that the chairman of its joint ventures with Wahaha, China's largest beverage producer, resigned on Wednesday amid a dispute that has damaged a 10-year partnership.


In a statement yesterday, Danone said it has accepted the resignation of Zong Qinghou, Wahaha's founder, and appointed its managing director for Asia, Emmanuel Faber, as interim head of the ventures.


"Groupe Danone has stuck to the principle that we are dedicated to the joint ventures with Wahaha, its brand and development of employees for the past, now and future," Faber was quoted as saying in the statement.


"Danone promises the joint ventures' employees will not be affected by the issue in terms of their employment, benefits and treatments, working and living conditions, as well as personal development," he added.


The joint venture employees and distributors had shown their support to Zong and boycotted the attempted acquisition of Wahaha's non-joint ventures for 4 billion yuan in April. Wahaha's spokesman confirmed Zong's departure yesterday.


Danone, which owns a 51 percent stake of the joint ventures with Wahaha, alleged that Wahaha breached contract by selling beverages that compete with products of the firms' joint ventures.


(China Daily June 8, 2007)

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