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Picture of a cup of coffee at a Luckin Coffee on January 14, 2019.

Fred Dufour | AFP | Getty Images

Picture of a cup of coffee at a Luckin Coffee on January 14, 2019.

China’s Luckin Coffee, a self-declared challenger to Starbucks, has raised $150 million in its latest round of funding from investors including BlackRock, which values the company at $2.9 billion.

The investment, $125 million of which came from a private equity fund managed by BlackRock, follows a $200 million funding round in November that had increased the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion, Luckin said in a statement on Thursday.

The up-and-coming coffee chain with ambitions to challenge Starbucks in China is backed by investors including Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and China International Capital Corp Ltd.

Reuters reported in February that Luckin had tapped three banks including Credit Suisse to work on a U.S. IPO in 2019. The company’s chairman also sought a loan of at least $200 million from banks including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, sources told Reuters last month.

The loss-making firm’s super-charged growth plan has been built on cheap delivery, online ordering and big discounts. It has said it wants to open 2,500 cafes this year to displace Starbucks as China’s largest coffee chain.

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Saudi Aramco in talks with banks about IPO



An employee walks past crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah Tank Farm in Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saudi Aramco asked several banks to bid for roles in its possible initial public offering, people familiar with the matter told CNBC on Monday.

Reuters first reported news of the company’s talks with banks.

An IPO of the state-controlled oil company has been a longtime goal of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who values the company at around $2 trillion. The state-owned oil company would be the world’s biggest IPO.

Recently, Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said Aramco would likely go public in 2020 or 2021.

The company’s board was meeting with bankers in Boston earlier last month and the debt offering gave the Saudi officials confidence the IPO could happen as soon as 2020, the people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The people did not specify which banks received requests from Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Aramco declined to comment.

Oil prices rose on Monday as the market started to price in the current geopolitical risk of a weekend drone attack on a Saudi Arabia oil facility.

Saudi Aramco said oil production was not affected by the attack.

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Former CNN reporter hires lobbyists to battle Trump friend Duterte



Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (2nd R), is escorted by police after an arrest warrant was served, shortly after arriving at the international airport in Manila on March 29, 2019.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

A former CNN investigative reporter has hired a lobbying juggernaut to take on Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, one of Donald Trump’s most loyal allies in the region.

Lobbying disclosure reports show that Maria Ressa, who founded news website Rappler Inc. in the Philippines, has tapped two partners out of Covington & Burling to help her with a foreign relations campaign against Duterte.

The filing shows that Peter Lichtenbaum and Kurt Wimmer are working with Ressa to “build awareness and concern about the unfounded charges brought against Rappler and its CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa in the Philippines.” The Covington leaders were registered to lobby for Ressa effective Friday.

Ressa was arrested in the Philippines for a second time in March after her media publication was critical of Duterte’s government. Philippine officials charged her and Rappler with breaking laws as it pertained to foreign ownership of the company. Ressa has also been accused of libel, and that trial is currently ongoing.

A separate filing shows Rappler has also brought on Wimmer and Lichtenbaum for assistance.

After publication, Wimmer explained in an email that they anticipate providing legal counsel for Ressa and Rappler, as well as briefing U.S. policymakers.

“We anticipate that in addition to providing U.S. legal counsel, our role will include briefing U.S. policymakers who are concerned with freedom of expression and the rule of law so that they understand all of the facts surrounding the Philippine government’s treatment of Ms. Ressa and Rappler,” Wimmer said. 

Ressa and Lichtenbaum did not respond to requests for comment.

Although the documents do not show who they will be reaching out to in Washington with this new campaign, any attempt to work directly with Trump’s administration might prove to be futile due to the president’s good relationship with Duterte.

Duterte has repeatedly called Trump his friend. Trump met with the Philippines leader in November 2017. Months after Trump was sworn into office, he called Duterte to praise him on the crackdown of drug cartels since he became the country’s leader, according to a transcript of the conversation first reported by The Intercept.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte, the transcript read.

Duterte’s war on drugs has led to thousands of deaths in the Philippines, data from a recent study by Human Rights Watch shows. Citing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the nonprofit organization says more than 4,900 suspected drug users and dealers died between 2016 and 2018 during police operations. Since Duterte’s crackdown started, nearly 23,000 other deaths are being classified as homicides under investigation, the group says, citing the Philippine National Police.

Trump’s relationship with Duterte isn’t well received in Washington, even among allies of the White House. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a staunch Trump supporter, has publicly cautioned the president against getting too familiar with Duterte. “This is not a guy we want to empower,” he said in an interview in 2017.

Lichtenbaum, one of the lobbyists, has also had run-ins with Trump’s administration.

During Trump’s campaign for president in 2016, the Covington partner signed a public letter that declared he would not be voting for the Republican nominee. Lichtenbaum, a former assistant secretary in the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush, was one of dozens of previous national security officials who signed the “Never Trump” declaration.

Lichtenbaum was being considered for a post within Trump’s administration before it was discovered that he had signed the letter. Wilbur Ross’ Commerce Department eventually pulled its consideration, Reuters reported at the time.

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Twitter accuses China of running disinformation campaign against Hong Kong protesters



Twitter said Monday it suspended hundreds of accounts that are believed to be tied to a “significant state-backed information campaign” originating from inside China. 

The company suspended 936 accounts that are thought to be related to the activity. Twitter said the disinformation campaign was designed to “sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political protest movement on the ground.”

“Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation,” the company said in a blog post. “Specifically, we have identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.” 

Shares of Twitter climbed more than 3% in afternoon trading. 

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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