November 3, 2011 / 8:25 PM / 6 years ago

Starbucks profit up despite economic jitters

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp’s (SBUX.O) quarterly profit rose slightly more than expected after the summer’s economic jitters failed to dilute the coffee habits of customers at the world’s largest coffee chain.

The stock, which closed at $41.40, rose 3 percent to $42.65 in after-hours trading.

Global sales at cafes open at least 13 months jumped 9 percent, better than the 6.5 percent gain analysts, on average, expected according to Thomson Reuters data.

Customers visited Starbucks cafes more often during the quarter and spent more money when they did.

Same restaurant sales at U.S. cafes, which account for about four-fifths of its revenue, rose 10 percent. Sales at established international cafes were up 6 percent.

While coffee prices spiked, Starbucks held the line or slightly raised prices on mainstay drinks such as brewed coffee. It saved bigger price increases for more complex drinks such as blended Frappuccinos.

“They’ve done a good job of readdressing the value equation,” said Lazard Capital Markets analyst Matthew DiFrisco, who called the pricing strategy a success.

Seattle-based Starbucks and upscale grocer Whole Foods Market Inc WFM.O, each have amped up their results by keeping prices on everyday items roughly competitive, while also maintaining a premium position versus rivals.

Starbucks’ fourth-quarter net income rose almost 29 percent to $358.5 million, or 47 cents per share, including gains of 10 cents per share.

Excluding the gain, earnings of 37 cents were a penny better than analysts’ average estimate according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose almost 7 percent to $3.03 billion for the quarter ended October 2.

Starbucks shares, which have benefited from a massive restructuring that slashed costs and shut over 900 poorly performing cafes around the world, are up more than 40 percent from a year ago.

NEW PRODUCT JOLT?

Starbucks this week began selling its coffee and Tazo tea for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc’s GMCR.O popular Keurig machines, which control about 80 percent of the fast-growing North American single-serve brewing segment.

    The company expects the partnership to generate 3 cents to 5 cents in incremental earnings per share in 2012.

    In January, the company will go “Blonde” -- expanding its coffee lineup with its lightest roast to date in a move that takes direct aim at rivals McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) and Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN.O).

    Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s each brew lighter roasts than Starbucks. They also have gone after the Seattle company’s core business by introducing drinks such as lattes and frappes.

    “I think we’ll get a nice healthy share of it over time,” Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead told Reuters.

    Analyst DiFrisco agreed, saying he expects the new Blonde blends to drive incremental traffic without cannibalizing sales of the company’s traditional dark roasts.

    Looking ahead, Starbucks stood by its forecast calling for a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in earnings per share for fiscal 2012, or $1.75 to $1.82, and a 10 percent increase in revenue. That forecast is based on mid-single digit comparable store sales growth and the opening of 800 net new stores.

    Starbucks, which plans to remodel a record 1,700 cafes in fiscal 2012, still expects costs for commodities such green coffee and milk to lower full-year earnings by 21 cents per share.

    Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Brad Dorfman in Chicago; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon

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