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A cup of coffee displayed at a Luckin Coffee shop on Jan. 14, 2019.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Luckin Coffee Inc, the Chinese challenger to Starbucks Corp, on Monday filed for an initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, after being valued at nearly $3 billion in its latest round of funding.

The Beijing-based coffee chain set a placeholder amount of $100 million to indicate the size of the IPO and did not disclose the number of shares it would offer, a filing with the regulator showed.

Luckin Coffee, expanding at breakneck speed, currently operates 2,370 stores in 28 Chinese cities and plans to open 2,500 new stores this year – displacing Starbucks as China’s largest coffee chain in the process. The brand is banking on an increase in coffee consumption in country which, according to a report cited by the Luckin in the prospectus, has grown from 4.4 billion cups annually in 2013 to 8.7 billion last year, with an expectation it will continue to rise to 15.5 billion cups a year by 2023. In its latest round of funding, Luckin raised $150 million from investors including BlackRock Inc, valuing the company at $2.9 billion.

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However, the company is still loss making.

Since inception on June 16, 2017, the company has been in the red, with net loss to shareholders coming at $475.4 million in the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, and total revenue of $125.27 million, according to the filing. For the first three months of this year, it posted a net loss of $85.3 million.

Luckin said it would continue to spend on increasing its brand awareness, expand its customer base and store network and invest heavily in offering discounts and deals to keep bringing in more customers through its doors.

It, however, cautioned that revenues may not grow at the rate it expects that would offset higher expenses in the near future due to changes in regulation and increasing competition.

Luckin said it could continue to incur losses in the foreseeable future and “we cannot assure you that we will eventually achieve our intended profitability.”

The coffee chain was co-founded by Chief Executive Qian Zhiya, the former chief operating officer of Car Inc, and two other senior executives, and it is backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd.

Other investors in the company include venture capital firm Joy Capital and private equity firm Centurium Capital, according to the filing.

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The company, which intends to list under the symbol “LK” on the Nasdaq, chose New York for the listing as Hong Kong generally requires IPO applicants to have a track record of three financial years, sources told Reuters earlier.

The size of the IPO stated in preliminary filings is used to calculate registration fees. The final IPO size could be different.

Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley are some of the underwriters to the IPO.

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