Onetime High-Flyer Luckin Coffee Raises Funds Amid Auditor Swap
(Bloomberg) -- Luckin Coffee Inc., the disgraced Chinese coffee chain once seen as a rival to Starbucks Corp., replaced its auditor and said it secured $250 million in funds from a pair of private equity firms.
The company’s board approved the appointment of Hong Kong-based Centurion ZD CPA & Co. as auditor effectively immediately, according to a statement Thursday. Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk LLP, the company’s previous auditor, “believes that it has not gathered sufficient independent third-party data or conducted sufficient audit procedures to complete the audit,” Luckin said.
The coffee chain and its former auditor “have no disagreements on any matter of accounting principles or practices, financial statement disclosure, or auditing scope or procedure,” according to the statement. Luckin has implemented remediation measures to its internal controls and is working with CZD to file annual reports for 2019 and 2020 as soon as possible.
“Luckin was already one of the most unusual situations we’d ever seen,” Quo Vadis Capital analyst John Zolidis said in a note. “This continued today as the company announced a change in auditor, with the previous auditor apparently unable or unwilling to complete the job.”
The developments mark the latest twists in a tumultuous saga for Luckin, which is trying to regain its footing after a spectacular fall from grace. The once fast-growing company last year acknowledged that it intentionally fabricated more than $300 million in sales, an admission that would lead to the firing of its chairman and chief executive officer, hundreds of millions in fines from Chinese and U.S. regulators, and the delisting of its stock by Nasdaq. Luckin filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in New York in February.
Founded in 2017, Luckin operated about 4,500 stores by the end of 2019 in mainland China. The chain’s growth was fueled by offering big discounts as it sought to reach 10,000 locations by the end of 2021 and surpass Starbucks, which has targeted China as one of its key markets.
In a separate announcement Thursday, Luckin said an affiliate of Centurium Capital has agreed to an investment of $240 million in shares through a private placement, with Joy Capital investing an additional $10 million. The investors may be able to purchase an additional $150 million under certain circumstances, according to a filing.
The funds will be used in part to fulfill Luckin’s obligations under a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, it said. In December, the SEC announced a $180 million fine for “defrauding investors by materially misstating the company’s revenue, expenses and net operating loss.”
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