Chinese competition authorities have blocked Coca-Cola’s proposed $2.4bn takeover of the country’s leading juice company.

Yesterday it was reported that Coca-Cola could pull out of the deal ahead of suggestions that regulators would not allow the China Huiyan Juice brand to fall into foreign hands.

However, regulators have blocked the deal, citing “a negative effect on competition” amid claims a takeover could harm domestic rivals and restrict consumer choice.

Coca-Cola chief executive Muhtar Kent said he was “disappointed” with the decision, which has sparked fears that China could take a more protectionist stance over the dealings of its largest companies.

“We will now focus all of our energies and expertise on growing our existing brands and continuing to innovate with new brands, including in the juice segment,” Kent said in a statement.