China’s Starbucks challenger takes its act to Wall Street

Luckin Coffee, the ambitious startup that is challenging Starbucks in the race to dominate China’s growing coffee culture, filed for a US initial public offering.

Luckin Coffee has had a meteoric rise in the past 12 months.

The Beijing-based company applied to list American depositary shares on Nasdaq under the ticker LK. The coffee unicorn is said to plan to raise around $US300 million in the IPO, Bloomberg News reported in February. Last week, Luckin raised $US150 million from BlackRock and other investors at a valuation of $US2.9 billion.

Luckin is spending millions of dollars a year opening outlets to unseat Starbucks as China’s top coffee company. Since its inception in June 2017, Luckin has quickly expanded into 2,370 stores in 28 cities, with backing from investors including Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and China International Capital Corp. By the end of this year, Luckin aims to become the largest coffee network in China in terms of number of stores.

It faces an uphill battle against Starbucks, which entered China 20 years ago and dominates with more than 50 percent of the market last year, according to Euromonitor. Luckin held only a 2.1 percent share in 2018. Starbucks has more than 3,700 outlets in the country and is also expanding at break-neck speed, opening a new store roughly every 15 hours. It’s aiming to have 6,000 sites in China by 2023.


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