Luckin Coffee sticks by chairman despite scandal over fake sales

Embattled Luckin Coffee chairman Charles Zhengyao Lu. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Luckin Coffee sticks by chairman despite scandal over fake sales

  • Luckin suspended trading on June 29 and will be delisted from the Nasdaq by the end of next week.

BEIJING: Embattled coffee chain Luckin Coffee has decided against ousting its founder and chairman, despite an internal investigation concluding that last year’s revenue included millions of dollars in fake sales.

The massive financial scandal has already cost the company two top executives, caused shares to plummet more than 70 percent and put its billionaire founder Charles Zhengyao Lu in the line of fire — and will see it delisted from the Nasdaq in New York.

But the directors decided Lu would remain chairman, the company said, a day after an internal probe found its 2019 net revenue was inflated by 2.12 billion yuan ($311 million).

A proposal to oust Lu failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority vote on Thursday, Luckin said in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company’s shares went into freefall after it revealed in April that a top officer may have faked billions of yuan worth of sales.

The chain has since fired CEO Jenny Zhiya Qian and chief operating officer Liu Jian.

On Wednesday, Luckin said in a separate filing that a special committee investigation had found the fabrication of sales traced back as early as April last year.

Apart from the inflated revenue, Luckin’s 2019 costs and expenses were also found to be inflated by 1.34 billion yuan.

The committee’s recommendations — which led to Qian and Liu’s removals — brought about a proposal to oust Lu as well.

While it eventually failed to garner enough support to remove Lu, the board earlier announced its decision to fire another 12 employees involved in the fake transactions.

Luckin suspended trading on June 29 and will be delisted from the Nasdaq by the end of next week, having been asked to do so by the exchange.

The chain launched in 2017 and raised $561 million in its initial public offering less than two years later, with plans to dethrone Starbucks in China via an aggressive growth strategy, enticing customers with an app-based purchasing model that prioritized takeaway and delivery options, and generous mobile coupons.

By the end of 2019, the Xiamen-headquartered firm’s 4,500 outlets in mainland China had already surpassed Starbucks’ local footprint, and investors touted the company’s potential to go global. 

The scandal has dealt a blow to US-listed Chinese firms, who find themselves under increased scrutiny as tensions flare between the two superpowers.

Lu must still face a vote of confidence by shareholders on Sunday at an extraordinary general meeting.

Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

Updated 21 October 2020

Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

  • Competition and Consumer Commission launched Australian court action against Google in July

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s competition watchdog will consider its own antitrust case against Google, the commission chairman said Wednesday after the US Justice Department sued the company for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising.
Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims described the US case filed Tuesday as one of the world’s biggest antitrust cases in the past 20 years.
“I’m delighted the D.o.J.’s taking it on and we’ll follow it really closely,” Sims told the National Press Club, referring to the US Department of Justice.
“We’re going to look at it and see whether there’s any value in what we might do,” Sims added.
Separately, Sims is drafting legislation to address the imbalance in bargaining power between Google and the Australian media businesses that want the tech giant to pay for journalism.
The bills, that will be ready to be introduced to Parliament by December, would empower an arbitrator to make binding decisions on how much Google and Facebook must pay media companies for news content.
Sims said his commission “had a lot of talk” with the US Justice Department before he released a report in July last year that recommended more government regulation on the market power of Google and Facebook that would ensure fair deals for other media businesses and more control for individuals on how their data was used.
Sim’s commission launched Australian court action against Google in July alleging the California-based company misled account holders about its use of their personal data.
The commission alleges the Google misled millions of Australians to obtain their consent and expand the scope of personal information that Google collects about users’ Internet activity to target advertising. Google denies the allegations.
In October last year, the commission sued Google in an Australian court alleging the company broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was collected and used. That case will be heard by the Federal Court next month. Google also denies that allegation.
Sims said Google was lobbying “every politician at Parliament House” ahead of draft legislation being introduced to make it pay for news.
Google has said the proposed laws would result in “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube,” put free services at risk and could lead to users’ data “being handed over to big news businesses.”
Facebook has warned it might block Australian news content rather than pay for it.