Starbucks blames slower China growth on drop in third-party delivery orders

China has been a sweet spot for Starbucks for the past few years, as the country embraces cafes and opens up to drinking coffee over tea while growth saturates back home. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Starbucks blames slower China growth on drop in third-party delivery orders

SINGAPORE/SHANGHAI: Starbucks Corp. has reported a sudden slowdown in China growth just weeks after trumpeting rapid expansion in the country, citing a drop-off in unapproved third-party delivery services whose bulk orders had been clogging up its cafes.
The US cafe chain on Tuesday same-store sales would be flat to slightly negative in its second-biggest market in April-June, versus 7 percent growth a year earlier. The announcement was followed by a 9 percent drop in Starbucks’ share price.
China has been a sweet spot for Starbucks for the past few years, as the country embraces cafes and opens up to drinking coffee over tea while growth saturates back home. Last month, the firm said it aimed to triple China revenue and double cafe numbers to 6,000 by 2022.
But on Tuesday, the company said new cafe openings were cannibalizing customer visits at other stores, as also happened in the United States. However, Starbucks particularly noted a decline in third-party firms — with whom it had no formal arrangements — that placed large orders for delivery to their own customers, often resulting in long in-store queues.
“I think it was driven by the government to want to stop having third parties do that because it was creating annoyances,” Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said on a call with analysts on Tuesday. He said the remedy was to seal a delivery partnership with a “large tech company” by the end of the year.
Reuters was unable to confirm any government measures on the matter.
Third-party “daigou” shopping agents in China offer services via delivery platforms such as Ele.me, backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Meituan-Dianping, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. Restaurants and cafes can also have official accounts on such platforms, though Starbucks does not.
Mizuho Securities analyst Jeremy Scott in a research note said Starbucks would have been happy for the no-cost custom generated by third-party delivery services, but an official arrangement will likely push up costs.
“While the Street may be willing to forgive a tough May ... the soft comp (comparable store sales) in China is more disheartening given that management is hyper-focused on the market,” said Scott.
Starbucks also on Tuesday said it planned to close 150 cafes in the United States and open fewer locations in its financial year beginning in October, in response to competition that has seen new coffee chains, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants improve quality and cut prices.


Danske Bank money laundering ‘giga scandal’ spreads to Britain

Updated 11 min 19 sec ago
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Danske Bank money laundering ‘giga scandal’ spreads to Britain

  • By 2013, the number of UK-registered customers in the branch’s non-resident portfolio had topped 1,000
  • Danske Bank Chairman Ole Andersen said that the lender had made an assessment of whether it violated any US laws
LONDON/COPENHAGEN: Danske Bank’s money laundering scandal spread on Friday as Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said it is investigating the use of UK-registered companies.
“This is a giga scandal,” European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, joining a growing chorus of calls for a clampdown on the billions of euros which are alleged to have been “washed” through European banks.
An NCA spokeswoman said the British agency was working with partners across government to restrict the ability of criminals to use UK-registered companies in money laundering.
British and Russian entities dominate a list of accounts used to make €200 billion ($236 billion) in payments through Danske Bank’s branch in Estonia between 2007 and 2015, many of which the bank said this week are suspicious.
By 2013, the number of UK-registered customers in the branch’s non-resident portfolio had topped 1,000, Danske Bank’s investigation revealed, ahead of clients from Russia, the British Virgin Islands and Finland.
As the scope of the alleged money laundering through Danske Bank has widened, investor concerns over the potential penalties it could face have increased, with particular focus on what action if any US authorities might take against the bank.
So far, the US has not said whether it is investigating, although Danske Bank Chairman Ole Andersen said that the lender had made an assessment of whether it violated any US laws. He has declined to share the bank’s conclusion of this.
“We need to do more to prevent money laundering from happening,” Vestager told reporters in Copenhagen following the resignation on Wednesday of Danske Bank CEO Thomas Borgen after an investigation commissioned by the bank exposed past control and compliance failings.
Borgen, 54, was in charge of Danske Bank’s international operations including Estonia between 2009 and 2012.
He said on Wednesday that he had been “personally cleared from a legal point of view” while Danske said its board had not breached their legal obligations.
The European Commission last week recommended banking supervision changes, including bolstering national authorities, but stopped short of setting up a new financial crime agency called for by the European Central Bank.
In a sign of the growing pressure on Danske Bank, which already faces criminal inquiries in Denmark and Estonia, the chief executive of CARE Danmark said on Twitter that the Danish charity had decided to end its relationship with the lender.
International aid charity Oxfam also called on Danish municipalities to cut ties with the bank, saying it has not been able to re-establish the trust of Danish citizens.
The mayor of Aalborg, Denmark’s third largest municipality, said he would discuss its partnership with Danske Bank at the next municipality committee meeting, but noted that there were only two banks in Denmark would be able to handle a municipality its size.
“Danske Bank has been involved in money laundering which is deeply reprehensible and outrageous but Nordea has been involved in tax havens, so the entire bank sector needs to clean up for us to have a trusting collaboration with the banks,” Thomas Kastrup-Larsen said.
Danske Bank’s tiny Estonian branch accounted for as much as 10 percent of group profit during the period when suspected money laundering was conducted via its operations there.