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Credit Suisse Targets Luckin Ex-Billionaire’s Family Assets

Cathy Chan

(Bloomberg) -- Lenders led by Credit Suisse Group AG have targeted the family assets of Luckin Coffee Inc. Chairman Lu Zhengyao as they try to recoup losses on more than $500 million in soured margin loans.

Credit Suisse is seeking a court order to appoint liquidators for Haode Investment Inc., according to a notice in the BVI Gazette on Thursday. Haode, controlled by Lu’s family trust, defaulted on loans backed by Luckin shares in April, according to a statement from lenders last month. Spokespeople for Credit Suisse and Luckin declined to comment.

The liquidation request adds to a long list of challenges facing Lu, who became a billionaire after his fast-growing Chinese coffee chain went public in the U.S. with help from some of the biggest names on Wall Street. Much of Lu’s wealth has been wiped out by a 92% plunge in Luckin’s stock since April, when the company disclosed that some of its employees may have fabricated billions of yuan in sales.

Luckin’s fall from grace has made it a poster child for concerns about Chinese corporate governance, fueling a debate in Washington over the extent to which U.S. money and capital markets should be made accessible to firms from a growing geopolitical rival. Nasdaq Inc. plans to delist Luckin’s stock, while the U.S. Senate approved legislation Wednesday that could lead to some Chinese companies being barred from American exchanges.

Lu said in a statement on Wednesday that he’s “deeply disappointed” Nasdaq is moving to delist Luckin before the company releases final results of an internal probe into its accounting. Regulators in the U.S. and China are also investigating the coffee chain, while Luckin bondholders have secured a freeze on $160.7 million in assets, according to a May 11 filing in Hong Kong.

Banks that participated in the loan facility to Lu’s investment vehicle signaled in April that they plan to sell Luckin shares that were pledged as collateral. It’s unclear whether the banks have started offloading the shares or how much money they’ll be able to recoup.

Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley each put up about $100 million as part of the loan facility, while China’s Haitong International Securities Group lent about $140 million, Bloomberg reported last month, citing a person familiar with the matter. Other banks involved include Barclays Plc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and China International Capital Corp.

Lu’s investment vehicle has disputed that it’s in default and has requested an injunction against Credit Suisse in Hong Kong to prevent the bank from commencing liquidation proceedings, according to a May 6 court filing.

Few banks have seen a bigger fallout from the Luckin saga than Credit Suisse, which was the lead underwriter for Luckin’s initial public offering, a secondary share sale in January and a $460 million issuance of convertible bonds.

The bank lost a high-profile Hong Kong IPO in the wake of the scandal and reported a five-fold increase in loan-loss provisions at its Asia Pacific unit, primarily due to the Luckin margin loans. The bank is conducting a review of the case, and scrutiny on loans to Chinese companies has increased, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named discussing private matters. China is core to Credit Suisse’s strategy to win business from rich entrepreneurs across Asia.

The Swiss bank, which is acting as an agent for the loan facility, filed the liquidation request to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, High Court of Justice, in the British Virgin Islands on April 23, according to the BVI Gazette notice. A hearing is schedule for June 8.

(Adds Luckin and bondholders lawsuits.)

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