NEW YORK Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) is boosting its European presence with plans to license 150 new locations in the United Kingdom, France and Germany over the next three years, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The shops are to be planted at airports and railway stations, the paper said, and come as the chain looks to offset a slumping U.S. market with overseas growth.
Earlier this month, through a Mexican partnership, Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in Argentina.
The European deal is Starbucks' largest licensing agreement outside the U.S., the Journal said, and could test Europeans' taste for take-out coffee.
"These three countries are just the beginning of what I think is a broader opportunity," Starbucks Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in an interview with the Journal.
"In the past, we had not been as aggressive because the resources of the company and the focus have primarily been on the U.S. business."
The licensing deal is being done with SSP, a U.K. food-retail operator that runs three airport Starbucks in the country and also operates Burger King and Pizza Hut outlets, the paper said, adding that the companies declined to name the airports or train stations where they plan to open the cafes.
In November Starbucks reported its first quarterly drop in U.S. customer traffic to established stores, and the trend has continued.
(Reporting by Christopher Kaufman; Editing by David Cowell)