Luckin Coffee Inc. (NASDAQ: LK) has seen its post-IPO quiet period come to an end, and Wall Street analysts from its underwriting syndicate are now free to cover the stock with research reports. The so-called and misnamed Starbucks of China saw a very mixed reaction from analysts covering this retailer of coffee in China.
KeyBanc Capital Markets started Luckin Coffee as Overweight with a $22 price target earlier this week. Morgan Stanley started it with an Equal Weight rating and a $21 target price at the same time.
Needham issued a new Overweight rating and assigned a target price of $27. That Needham call was the street-high target for the stock. The firm noted that Luckin requires customers to order their food on its app so it can gain user-engagement data and tailor the company’s marketing, products and even store locations to better focus on the consumer. It has a heat map for lobby pickup stores for a max-convenience for the under-represented and underpenetrated emerging coffee market in China. Needham even sees a breakeven occurring in the third quarter and perhaps another year for Luckin to be cash flow breakeven.
On Wednesday, Credit Suisse initiated coverage with an Outperform rating and the firm assigned a $24 target price. The firm believes that Luckin is uniquely positioned to fulfill the huge unmet demand for freshly brewed coffee in China and that it can further expand that market with its tech-driven new retail model. It also sees a better value proposition and an early-mover advantage allowing it to rapidly grow. Credit Suisse is calling for Luckin’s revenue to grow at a CAGR of 208% in 2021 and it expects Luckin to be profitable in 2021.
Luckin has popped up about as fast as one of those uninhabited cities that were constructed in China. The company only started selling coffee in 2017, and suddenly it had 2,370 stores spread among 28 Chinese cities as of its initial public offering filing date. Luckin also plans on opening about 2,500 more store locations by the end of this year and wants to unseat Starbucks as the largest coffee store network in China. There is a huge difference in the stores as Luckin is basically app-driven and not as much of a destination as it is a coffee pickup spot. In some ways, Luckin is more like the “coffee convenience store of China” rather than the “Starbucks of China.”
One issue that may help Luckin for the time being is the China-U.S. trade war. It’s not really a tariff issue as much as it is the idea that consumers in China will opt for brands that are Chinese and Americans will opt for a brand that is more American. The world still may have goods that are fungible, with parts of every product (including foods and beverages) coming from all over the world. That said, tensions between nations may help Chinese consumers favor a Chinese brand over a U.S. one if tensions persist.
Some valuations in the analyst coverage universe that has been seen so far are more conservative. Luckin’s closing price of $17.60 ahead of the last call would imply upside of 36% to Credit Suisse’s target price and upside of 53% to Needham’s $27 price target.
After pricing at $17 per American depositary share, those shares initially soared but then retreated handily. Its post-IPO trading range has been $13.71 to $25.96, with the high coming on the day of the IPO after its shares first opened for trading at $25.00. With the broad stock market sell-off in May being so harsh, it only took four trading days for Luckin to drop to under $15.
Luckin Coffee was last seen trading up 3.3% at $18.20 Wednesday morning, and trading volume has been lighter than normal compared to May’s trading.