The chairman of Danone's controversy-mired joint venture in China has resigned.

The French company confirmed yesterday (7 June) that Zong Qing Hou has resigned from his position as chairman of its Wahaha joint venture. The board has accepted his resignation, Danone said, and will appoint Emmanuel Faber, currently serving as vice chairman, as the interim chairman of Wahaha joint venture companies.

"Danone's objective has been, and will always be to ensure the development of the JV companies, their brands and employees," Faber said. "We are looking forward to the continuous development of the Wahaha joint ventures.

"As part of its global social responsibility policy, Groupe Danone commits to the Wahaha joint ventures employees to guarantee their job security, their benefits, the improvement of working and living conditions, personal respect and development."

The company said it has been in contact with Hangzhou government on the matter of management continuity at Wahaha and "trusts Government will continue to show support for a smooth management transition, both as regulatory authorities and as a significant minority holder in the joint ventures".

Zong is also chairman of Danone's partner in Wahaha, Hangzhou Wahaha. When contacted by just-drinks today, a spokesperson at the French company would not comment on whether Zong still held the post at Hangzhou Wahaha.

Earlier this week, Danone filed a lawsuit against Ever Maple Trading and Hangzhou Hongsheng Beverage Co. Hangzhou Wahaha is a subsidiary of Hangzhou Hongsheng, which is itself controlled by British Virgin Islands-based Ever Maple Trading.

"Hangzhou Wahaha Food and Beverage Sales is illegally selling products which are the same as those sold by Wahaha Joint Ventures and is making unlawful use of the joint ventures' distributors and suppliers," Danone said.