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Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese coffee shop chain Luckin Coffee raised $150 million in new funding led by Blackrock, which is Starbucks' second-largest outside shareholder, at a $2.9 billion valuation.

Why it's a big deal: Because this will help fuel Luckin's caffeinated sprint against Starbucks, during which it has employed the Silicon Valley hypergrowth strategy of using venture capital to support deep pricing discounts.

The Financial Times reports that Luckin "plans to open 200 to 300 outlets a month, putting it on track to overtake Starbucks, which has over 3,300 locations in China, by the end of this year."

  • Blackrock, which pumped $125 million into the round, has a 6.58% stake in Starbucks, valued at around $6.2 billion.
  • Maybe it’s a hedge, or perhaps Blackrock believes there will be multiple winners — particularly as Starbucks focuses more on in-store purchases and Luckin focuses more on delivery.
  • But it’s got to annoy Starbucks, as Luckin has eaten into its market share by offering deep discounts that Blackrock’s investment will only perpetuate.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.