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Firms keep eye on Coca Cola China deal

BEIJING, September 9 – Foreign firms are keeping a close watch on the fate of Coca-Cola\’s bid for Chinese juice producer Huiyuan, as suspicions about economic nationalism are on the rise, a European business group said Tuesday.

"Economic nationalism appears to be a growing concern," said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber of Commerce, at the launch of the 2008 European Business in China Position Paper.

"Of course, M and A (merger and acquisition) is a very difficult point," he said.

"Therefore we do watch the ongoing Coca-Cola Huiyuan case very closely to see if that is done by the law."

Foreign firms are often excluded from competing with local companies in areas such as standard setting, infrastructure business and the energy sector even though they offer more advanced technology and lower costs, he said.

"Economic nationalism… is primarily driven by economic interest groups that want to basically maintain monopolies or gain monopolies and try to exclude foreigners as competitive troubles," he added.

Coca-Cola announced last week plans to buy Hong Kong-listed Huiyuan Juice Group for 2.4 billion dollars, the US soft drink maker\’s largest ever acquisition in China.

The Chinese commerce ministry has said it will submit the acquisition to an anti-monopoly review once it receives Coca-Cola\’s application.

Meanwhile, some Chinese juice companies are reportedly planning to send a letter to the ministry to block the bid, arguing the purchase threatens to force them out of business.

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