In late June, China-based coffee retailer Luckin Coffee (OTCMKTS:LKNCY) got delisted from the NASDAQ Exchange. Now, Luckin stock is a penny stock and a potential bankruptcy-candidate.
Regular InvestorPlace.com readers would be quite familiar with the large-scale accounting scandal that has played out rather publicly earlier this year. Today we’ll discuss why investors need to accept the reality that Luckin stock is not worth their hard-earned cash.
Although Luckin Coffee has not yet declared bankruptcy, investors may be better off if they look for better companies for their long-term portfolios.
The Coffee Got Stale and Ran Out of Luck
Since its early days in 2017, Luckin stock has been touted as the Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) of China. In May 2019, the it went public in the U.S. as an American Depositary Receipt (ADR) at an opening price of $25.
Academic research at the time concluded that, “As Luckin Coffee enters the international market, it has become a symbol of globalization, showing China’s coffee brand.”
Compare to the U.S. ADR requirements, Chinese listing requirements are, in general, quite strict and lengthy. Chinese stock exchanges would have required Luckin to have been profitable over the three years before the proposed IPO date.
In other words, Luckin could not have listed in China. The group possibly initially chose the U.S. due to easier listing requirements for ADRs.
In early January, Luckin share price hit an all-time high of $50.38. But the discourse has changed dramatically downhill since then. On April 2, management said that it was investigating reports that senior executives and employees fabricated transactions totaling $310 million (or 2.2 billion RMB).
It also urged investors not to rely on its previous financial statements for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2019. Luckin stock tanked from a closing price of $26.20 on April 1 to an opening price of $4.91 the next morning. Then trading was halted on April 7, when the share price was at $4.39.
On April 27, Luckin Coffee China headquarters of the scandal-hit chain was raided by regulators in the country. And the stock swas allowed to trade on May 20. In late June, the company notified shareholders of the delisting.
Recent Developments for Luckin Coffee
Summer months saw a substantial level of shakeup across the entire C-suite management. In early July, controversial board chairman Charles Zhengyao Lu was voted out by shareholders.
He was also a co-founder. Initial results from an internal investigation confirmed that Lu at least knew about the deception. Now, Jinyi Guo, who has been acting CEO, is the new chairman. He had previously headed the product and supply chain.
Other top-level employees have also left. They include Qian Zhiya and Liu Jian, the CEO and chief operating officer, when the scandal broke. Later in August, two of Luckin directors resigned.
Meanwhile, the probe by regulators in China is continuing. In recent weeks, U.S. regulators have also started to scrutinize foreign, but mainly Chinese listed companies in the U.S.
The issue of trust is likely to linger over Luckin Coffee for a long time to come. It would also mean the company would find it extremely difficult to raise fresh capital, at least in the U.S.
At present, Luckin stock is hovering at $2.5. Chris Markoch has recently written why he finds it hard to understand the company’s continued trading interest.
I agree with him when he concludes, “It’s too early to reward Luckin stock for merely surviving. The company must be able to deliver both transparency and accountability before it will be considered a viable stock to trade.”
An Alternative to Luckin Stock in China?
Coffee consumption in China is on the rise. That consumer trend was in part behind the initial interest behind Luckin stock.
Are you an investor who would like to invest in the potentially lucrative coffee market in a land of 1.4 billion residents? Then you may want to do due diligence on SBUX stock. Since it entered mainland China in 1999, Starbucks’ growth story has been strong and consistent.
In late July, Starbucks released Q3 Fiscal 2020 results that showed consolidated net revenues of $4.2 Billion. Global and Americas comparable store sales declined by 40% and 41%, respectively. Management noted that China comparable store sales were down 19%.
The company opened 130 net new stores in Q3, yielding 5% year-over-year unit growth, ending the quarter with 32,180 stores globally. Stores in the U.S. and China comprised 61% of the global portfolio at the end of Q3, with 15,243 and 4,447 stores, respectively.
Year-to-date, SBUX stock is down about 2%. Long-term investors may consider buying dips on SBUX stock, especially if it goes toward $80 or lower. Passive-income seeking investors would also be entitled to a current dividend yield of 1.9%.
The Bottom Line on Luckin Stock
Following the revelations that Luckin’s management had fabricated over $300 million in revenue for 2019, its relatively short trading history in the U.S. is facing an uncertain future. Yet, there are other ways to invest in the growing consumer markets in China for long-term investors.
Besides the Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks, which has robust Chinese operations, investors may also consider researching China ETFs. Examples would include the iShares MSCI China ETF (NYSEARCA:MCHI), Global X MSCI China Consumer Discretionary ETF (NYSEARCA:CHIQ), Invesco China Technology ETF (NYSEARCA:CQQQ), or the Xtrackers MSCI All China Equity ETF (NYSEARCA:CN).
On the date of publication, Tezcan Gecgil did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
The author has worked in investment management for over two decades in the U.S. and U.K. In addition to formal higher education in the field, she has also completed all 3 levels of the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) examination. Her passion is for options trading based on technical analysis of fundamentally strong companies. She especially enjoys setting up weekly covered calls for income generation. She also publishes educational articles on long-term investing.