Chinese beverage giant Wahaha Group is to countersue its French joint venture partner Danone and seek compensation of up to five billion euros, the company confirmed on Tuesday.
Wahaha spokesman Shan Qining told Xinhua that Wahaha had decided to "demand justice by legal procedures" after Danone had filed for arbitration and lawsuits against it.
Wahaha said in a separate statement, "We will respond actively to the lawsuits filed by Danone in Stockholm and the United States, and we plan to launch a countersuit demanding compensation of two billion, three billion or five billion euros."
The statement continued, "We have conclusive evidence that Danone has broken the law.
"Wahaha is not against the opening-up policy of China, or cooperation with others, or cooperation with foreign investors. However, we want the cooperation to be equal, mutually beneficial, complementary, mutually respectful with equal interest," the statement said.
Danone was unavailable for comment on Wahaha's intentions.
Wahaha has applied for arbitration over a trademark dispute with Danone at the Hangzhou Arbitration Committee, asking the committee to terminate a trademark transfer contract signed between Hangzhou Wahaha Group and the joint venture of Wahaha and Danone in 1996.
Wahaha said its contract with Danone was never approved by China's trademark authority, which meant the transfer was invalid and the contract should be terminated.
Shan said the Wahaha trademark belonged to Hangzhou Wahaha Group and not with Danone.
Danone, which owns 51 percent stake of the 39 joint ventures, has accused Wahaha of setting up independent companies and selling products identical to those sold by the joint ventures.
Danone is demanding a 51-percent stake in the non-joint venture companies, which Wahaha Group has rejected.
Danone filed its first lawsuit against Wahaha on May 9 in Stockholm.
On June 4, Danone filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles-based Superior Court against Ever Maple Trading Ltd. and Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Co. Ltd, and two individuals related to the companies.
Ever Maple Trading Ltd. is the controlling shareholder of Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage, which is the parent company of Hangzhou Wahaha Food and Beverage Sales Co., Danone's joint venture partner in China.
On June 6, Zong Qinghou, founder and chairman of Wahaha Group, resigned from his post as chairman of its 39 joint ventures with Danone.
Emmanuel Faber has been named interim chairman of the joint ventures.
(Xinhua News Agency June 27, 2007)