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Coke Hasn't Asked Beijing About Juice Maker Buyout

Coca-Cola Co. has yet to ask Beijing for approval of its proposed $2.5 billion takeover of China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd., the fruit-juice maker said.

HONG KONG (AP) -- Coca-Cola Co. has yet to ask Beijing for approval of its proposed $2.5 billion takeover of China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd., the Chinese fruit-juice maker said Wednesday.

"Coke has not yet submitted the documents, to our understanding," said Matthew Mouw, vice president for strategic development at Huiyuan. "They are still in the process of preparing the documents. The application process will be driven by Coca-Cola, not by us."

Coca-Cola announced its proposed takeover of Huiyuan last week.

The proposal has sparked criticism in China over the possible sale of a prominent national brand name to foreigners. Huiyuan, fending of Chinese complaints that Coke might drop the juice maker's name, said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. company would "further develop" the brand. The deal, it said, was in the best interests of the "Chinese economy as a whole."

State media say Coca-Cola will be required to submit to a review under China's one-month-old anti-monopoly law.

"We are prepared to accept the decision of the Ministry of Commerce one way or the other," Mouw said at a news conference.

Mouw and other Huiyuan managers declined to say whether they believed regulators would approve the takeover. The company says it already has secured approval from owners of nearly 66 percent of its shares.

"We are not in a position to comment how ... the regulator authorities will react to this, so let's just wait and see," said Francis Ng, Huiyuan's chief financial officer.

Also Wednesday, Huiyuan said its earnings in the first half of the year rose 7 percent compared with the year-earlier period to 367.3 million yuan ($53.6 million).

Coca-Cola has declined to comment on the review process.

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