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 0.9 percent to $74.02
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 that contributes the lion's share
of Starbucks revenue. Analysts, on average, expected a 6.4 percent
rise from the region.
Last fiscal year, Starbucks' Americas region sales at restaurants
open at least 13 months were up 8 percent in the fourth quarter and
up 9 percent in the third quarter.
"It's hard to really be too 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>, 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.
SHIFT TO ONLINE SHOPPING
Expectations had been muted ahead of the release of Starbucks'
results, in part because the Seattle company has been on a growth
tear that many analysts said could not go on forever.
"Holiday 2013 was the first in which many traditional brick and
mortar retailers experienced in-store foot traffic give way to
online shopping in a major way," Starbucks President and Chief
Executive Howard Schultz said in a statement.
Data firm ShopperTrak last week said U.S. shopper traffic fell 14.6
percent during the holiday season.
[to top of second column]
Starbucks' net earnings increased 25 percent to $540.7 million, or
71 cents per share, for the fiscal first quarter ended on December
Excluding a litigation credit of 2 cents a share, Starbucks' profit
matched Wall Street's average estimate of 69 cents per share,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
There has been a growing concern among analysts that the U.S.
roll-out of pastries from La Boulange, a San Francisco-area bakery
Starbucks bought in 2012, has slowed service because workers are
taking the time to warm up baked goods.
La Boulange products are sold in half of Starbucks' company-operated
stores in the United States, which works out to about 3,500 stores.
Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead told Reuters that Starbucks has
added staff and revamped workers' duties to accommodate the
"There may be a perception that there is a slowdown, but when we
measure it, there is no change," Alstead told Reuters.
Starbucks is one of the best-performing companies in the restaurant
category and its shares have run up more than 30 percent in 12
(Additional reporting by Dhanya
Skariachan in New York; editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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