Starbucks Profit Rises 10% as Holiday Coffee Sales Increase

Starbucks Profit Rises 10% as Holiday Coffee Sales Increase
Starbucks Corp. employees at the company's annual meeting in Seattle. Photographer: Kevin P. Casey/Bloomberg

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, said first-quarter profit increased 10 percent as consumers bought more specialty beverages during the holidays.

Net income in the period ended Jan. 1 rose to $382.1 million, or 50 cents a share, from $346.6 million, or 45 cents, a year earlier, the Seattle-based company said today in a statement. Analysts projected 49 cents, the average of 25 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz spent more than a year planning merchandise and beverages for the holiday season. Starbucks sought to boost sales with a low-calorie peppermint mocha that was new this year, along with Via instant coffee and Keurig brand single-serve capsules.

“It was the most successful holiday season in our history,” Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead said in a telephone interview. Customers loaded $500 million onto Starbucks gift cards in December, he said.

Starbucks narrowed its forecast for profit excluding certain items to a range of $1.78 to $1.82 a share for fiscal 2012, compared with a previous projection of $1.75 to $1.82. Analysts estimated $1.83, on average.

Starbucks fell 1.9 percent to $47.40 at 4:54 p.m. in New York after rising 1.2 percent during regular trading. The shares gained 43 percent last year.

Higher Costs

Along with other restaurants, Starbucks has been forced to raise menu prices to help recoup higher raw-ingredient costs. The company has locked in its coffee costs for 2012 and for half of 2013, Alstead said.

The company’s operating income as a percentage of revenue narrowed to 16.2 percent in the first quarter from 17 percent a year earlier because of higher commodity costs, the company said in the statement.

Sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 9 percent globally in the quarter. Analysts estimated a gain of 7.6 percent, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Schultz recently has sought to draw more customers by expanding beyond traditional coffee. Starbucks bought juice maker Evolution Fresh Inc. in November and earlier this year began selling so-called blonde coffee -- a lighter blend compared with its signature dark roast. The company also is expanding the number of stores where it sells beer and wine.

Revenue advanced 16 percent to $3.44 billion during the quarter, topping analysts’ average estimate of $3.29 billion.

Starbucks, which has more than 10,700 U.S. cafes and 6,200 abroad, gets more than 20 percent of revenue from international stores.

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