China's commerce minister has said that Coca-Cola Co's US$2.4bn bid to buy Huiyuan Juice Group is still under review, as the deadline for approval looms.

Commerce minister Chen Demin told the China's National People' Congress on Tuesday (10 March) that a decision on the takeover proposal would be "fair and just", according to local reports.

Before Christmas, Coca-Cola and Huiyuan set a deadline of 23 March, by which date they hoped to gain approval for the deal. If successful, Coca-Cola's bid would become one of the biggest foreign takeovers in China's history.

Hong Kong-based Huiyuan, which is China's largest juice firm, released a statement last week following speculation that some Coca-Cola board members had turned against the deal in light of the global economic downturn.

Huiyuan said that it is "not aware of the views of any [Coca-Cola] directors" and that it "has not received any notification of any change in the terms of the offers".

Coca-Cola last week announced that it would invest US$2bn in China over the next three years, on top of the Huiyuan bid.