Starbucks Profit Tops Estimates as U.S. Sales Improve

Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, advanced the most in almost two months after posting earnings that topped analysts’ projections as pumpkin-spice lattes and other seasonal drinks helped boost U.S. sales.

The shares rose 2.2 percent to $74.98 at the close in New York, the biggest gain since Nov. 21, after the Seattle-based company yesterday reported first-quarter earnings per share of 71 cents, exceeding the 69-cent average of analysts’ estimates. Net income jumped 25 percent to $540.7 million.

Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz is advertising seasonal beverages, higher-quality baked goods and opening Teavana stores across the Americas to maintain sales growth. Sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 5 percent in the region, which includes the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

“Contributing to Americas’ performance was the success of our holiday beverage offerings, including both pumpkin-spice latte and our holiday beverage trio and strong food sales,” Schultz said on a conference call yesterday. The new bakery items, which include croissants and caramel pecan sticky buns, will be in all U.S. locations by the end of fiscal 2014.

Starbucks advanced 46 percent last year, compared with a 23 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Restaurants Index.

Consumer Environment

Revenue in the three months ended Dec. 29 increased 12 percent to $4.24 billion, the company said in a statement. That trailed analysts’ average projection of 4.29 billion.

“December is really where we saw just a little bit of softening in our traffic growth,” Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead said in a telephone interview. There’s been “an accelerating pace of movement of shoppers moving from bricks and mortars and the malls to online,” which meant those people weren’t refueling at Starbucks during the holidays, he said.

Starbucks also is facing a tougher consumer environment domestically. Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly declined in January, a sign spending may take time to accelerate in 2014. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment fell to 80.4 from 82.5 in December.

Sales at stores open at least 13 months advanced 5 percent globally, trailing analysts’ estimate for a gain of 5.9 percent, according to Consensus Metrix, a researcher owned by Wayne, New Jersey-based Kaul Advisory Group. Same-store sales advanced 5 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 8 percent in the company’s China and Asia Pacific region.

Same-store sales are considered an indicator of a retailer’s growth because they include only older, established locations.

The company increased its forecast for profit excluding certain items in the year through September to as much as $2.67 a share. Starbucks previously projected as much as $2.65. Analysts estimate $2.66, on average.

Starbucks also is opening more cafes and plans to add 1,500 globally in its fiscal 2014, including 600 in the Americas region.