Starbucks boosts profit forecast despite slower growth

Thu Jan 23, 2014 7:14pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: Quote) on Thursday reported that sales at established restaurants in its U.S.-dominated Americas region cooled more than analysts expected in its latest quarter as online shopping kept more consumers at home and reduced their visits to its coffee bars.

With fewer shoppers going to all types of stores to buy gifts, Starbucks executives said sales at its cafes open at least 13 months softened, particularly in December

Nevertheless, the world's biggest coffee chain boosted its fiscal 2014 earnings per share forecast to a range of $2.59 to $2.67, from $2.55 to $2.65 previously, sending shares up more than 1 percent to $74.15 in after-hours trade.

Global sales at Starbucks cafes open at least 13 months were up 5 percent, versus analysts' average estimate for a 5.9 percent rise, according to Consensus Metrix. That figure included a 5 percent increase for the Americas region, which contributes 70 percent of Starbucks revenue. Analysts, on average, expected a 6.4 percent rise from the region.

In the two prior quarters, Starbucks' Americas region same-restaurant sales were up 8 percent and 9 percent.

"It's hard to really be to critical, especially when you compare what we've seen and what we're about to see in the coming weeks," Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said, referring to the recent spate of disappointing earnings reports and profit warnings from restaurants and retailers.

Those included McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote), which earlier on Thursday reported a steeper-than-expected drop in December sales at established restaurants in the United States and put some of the blame on frigid winter weather.

"Growth is hard to find," Russo said.   Continued...

Branded packaging is seen in Starbucks' Vigo Street branch in Mayfair, central London January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth