French food giant Danone insisted this morning (12 June) that an "amicable" settlement to the legal wrangle with its Chinese joint venture partner Wahaha is still within reach.

Danone has accused Wahaha and its chairman Zong Qing Hou of manufacturing and distributing parallel products in breach of the companies' joint venture agreements.

Last week, Danone started legal action against Wahaha in the US. The news was promptly followed by the resignation of Zong, who then, in an open letter to Danone CEO Franck Riboud, Zong attacked Danone's "slander and tyranny".

In today's statement, Danone refuted Zong's accusations, which it dismissed as "incomplete, twisted, out of context, or simply untrue".

While Danone said that it understands the "genuine emotion and concern for many people" caused by Zong's departure, the food giant said the former chairman was seeking to "leverage employees, business partners and the public to support their goal of maximising (his) own personal wealth, while endangering the business continuity of the company, and raising antagonistic sentiments against individuals, companies or nations".

In order to settle a disagreement with Wahaha over Zong's successor, Danone said it would call for a board meeting with Chinese executives.

Danone has appointed its managing director for Asia, Emmaniel Faber, interim head of the joint venture companies, a move that was opposed by Wahaha executives. Danone said that "with due government support, we continue to believe an amicable settlement may be possible".

A spokesperson for the company told just-food: "Throughout the dispute we have maintained that a settlement which is acceptable to both sides is achievable. We still believe this to be the case."