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Korea’s Caffe Bene collapses

Korean coffee chain Caffe Bene has collapsed, filing for a court-led restructuring scheme on Friday.

Yonhap news service reports the court will soon decide whether to put the ailing coffee chain under its receivership or commence liquidation.

The legal move follows a protracted slump and mounting losses, the company said. In 2016, the company lost about US$32 million on sales of $73 million, down 32 per cent on the previous year. At that time it operated 800 stores in Korea, a figure it said would shrink as it restructured, and about 50 in the US.

Launched in 2008, Caffe Bene expanded to become one of South Korea’s largest coffee franchises, opening more than 1000 stores in five years, but lost ground in the saturated coffee market. While its US website claims it has opened 1600 stores worldwide, the exact number still trading is difficult to ascertain. It has opened in Vietnam, the US, China, Canada, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Mongolia.

But the international foray has met with mixed success. The Cambodian store has already closed and the last Facebook post by the Singapore cafe is dated February last year. In Vietnam several stores have opened and closed, including its downtown flagship which drew huge queues when it opened in 2014. Three outlets remain trading there, but it is not clear if they are franchised or company-owned.

The company also appears to have exited the Canadian market.

While rapid growth in the consumption of brewed coffee drove up the Korean coffee industry’s overall expansion, Caffe Bene was unable to match the growth rate at home.

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