Starbucks CEO Schultz to Add Coffee Shops in Latin America

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, aims to add stores in Latin America, especially Brazil, after focusing expansion in past years more on Asia, Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said.

Starbucks has about $2 billion in cash to invest in an “aggressive and opportunistic way,” Schultz said today, speaking at a book presentation in Madrid.

“Over the last few years our push has been more toward Asia than Latin America,” the CEO of the Seattle-based company said. “We are now going back and examining where those opportunities are, specifically in Brazil. We are looking at that very closely.”

Starbucks, which gets more than 20 percent of its sales from outside the U.S., has accelerated openings in China to tap demand from China’s growing middle class. The coffee brewer plans to more than triple its store count in mainland China to 1,500 locations by 2015, Starbucks said earlier this year.

The executive said he is more optimistic about the company than ever and the strongest growth is coming from China, Schultz said.

Schultz said he is “cautiously optimistic” about business in western Europe and Spain, where unemployment rates remain the highest in Europe at 21 percent. Starbucks will “aggressively” open more stores in Europe, including Spain, “over time”, he said.

Starbucks may grow through acquisitions, Schultz reiterated.

“For the first time in our history there could potentially be acquisitions as part of the growth of the company,” he said. “We have a very strong balance sheet with no debt, and it may be interesting for Starbucks to acquire some companies.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Manuel Baigorri in Madrid at mbaigorri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net

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