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By Ben Elgin, Dune Lawrence and Michael Riley
Nov 4, 2012

FBI officials quietly approached executives at Coca-Cola Co. (KO) on March 15, 2009, with some startling news.

Hackers had broken into the companyʼs computer systems and were pilfering sensitive files about its attempted $2.4 billion acquisition of China Huiyuan Juice Group (1886), according to three people familiar with the situation and an internal company document detailing the cyber intrusion. The Huiyuan deal, which collapsed three days later, would have been the largest foreign takeover of a Chinese company at the time.

Coca-Cola, the worldʼs largest soft-drink maker, has never publicly disclosed the loss of the Huiyuan information, despite its potential effect on the deal. It is just one in a global barrage of corporate computer attacks kept secret from shareholders, regulators, employees -- and in some cases even from senior executives.

When hackers last year waged a large-scale attack on BG Group Plc (BG/), raiding troves of sensitive data, the British energy company never made it public. Luxembourg-based steel maker ArcelorMittal also kept mum when intruders targeted, among others, its executive overseeing China. As did Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), after cyber attackers made off with files from its investment banking firm about natural gas leases that were up for sale.

Each of these cases was detailed to Bloomberg News either by people involved in remediating the situation or executives briefed on the details, who asked not to be identified because the information wasnʼt public; or in computer logs compiled by researchers monitoring the activities of hackers in China.


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