July 22, 2019 / 11:11 AM / 4 months ago

Starbucks' China rival Luckin Coffee plans first foray overseas

FILE PHOTO: A barista packs a coffee for online sales at a Luckin Coffee store in Beijing, China July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Starbucks’ (SBUX.O) Chinese challenger, Luckin Coffee (LK.O), plans to open coffee shops in the Middle East and India, in its first move overseas.

Luckin, which raised $561 million in May in a U.S. initial public offering, said on Monday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a joint venture with Kuwait’s Americana Group to launch the business in the Greater Middle East and India regions, without providing further details.

“This collaboration represents Luckin Coffee’s first step toward bringing its leading products from China to the world,” Luckin Coffee’s Founder and CEO, Jenny Qian Zhiya, said in a statement.

Kesri Kapur, CEO of Americana Group which operates 1,800 restaurants and 29 food production sites in the Middle East, said the Greater Middle East and India regions provided promising prospects for expansion.

Luckin has been locked in a supercharged expansion plan to unseat Starbucks as the No.1 coffee chain in the world’s second-largest economy and aims to open 2,500 stores in China this year.

It has spent cash to offer lower prices, discounts, speedy delivery and promotions on social media, which in turn pushed Starbucks to form a tie-up with Chinese tech giant Alibaba (BABA.N) to deliver coffee to customers.

Luckin has also expanded outside coffee, offering customers other beverages such as grapefruit cheese jasmine tea and food items, including Sichuan cold noodles with pulled chicken via its app.

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Susan Fenton

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