- Starbucks earnings were generally in line with estimates at 43 cents per share.
- The stock sell off slightly on slower growth than expected in China.
- The company has been a stellar performer, and will remain one.
- Profit-taking by others is an opportunity.
Starbucks stock fell 3% in the hour after reporting fiscal fourth quarter earnings Thursday afternoon that were in line with estimates at $652.5 million or 43 cents per share, but failed to reach the whisper number of 44 cents. The top line beat estimates at $4.91 billion, against the expected $4.9 billion.
China Sales Growth Weakens
The big “weakness” in the Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) earnings report was growth in China and Asia, with same store sales up 6% instead of the expected 9%. The company achieved growth in all regions, 5% in the Middle East and 7% in the Americas. The company was also modest in its growth expectations, expecting global same-store growth in the mid-single digits, and total sales growth of 10%. The company expects to achieve the same 43-44 cents/share earnings in the first fiscal quarter of 2016 it achieved this quarter.
While TV analysts pounded the table for the stock after earnings, citing its lead in mobile technology and comparable store sales rising 8%, the stocks fell. This happened even as the company raised its dividend, to 20 cents per share, bringing the yield to 1.3% at the $60.24 after-hours price.
The shares had been down ahead of earnings, by $1.01 per share, partly because the Price/Earnings multiple for the stock, at 35.21, is high, compared with a P/E of 24 for McDonalds (NYSE:MCD), whose shares have also improved 15.5% in just the last month.
The fall after earnings could also represent some profit-taking. So far in 2015 Starbucks is up 52%, against a gain of just 20% in MCD, even with the recent run-up. Other coffee-related stocks, like , Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR), and Krispy Kreme (NYSE:KKD) are all down for the year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I took a position in Starbucks for my retirement account in March, 2014, at a price of about $74. Since then the Starbuks stock has split 2:1 and paid out 90 cents/share in dividends, a gain of about 66% on my investment. Needless to say I’m not interested in selling.
In addition to global growth and mobile technology, another growth catalyst for the company is its expansion into beer and wine sales as well as tea – the company bought the Teavana chain of tea stores in late 2013. The company manages to hold the line on prices when coffee prices are down, and raise them substantially when coffee prices rise, while maintaining the loyalty of both regular coffee drinkers and business people around the world looking for a casual spot for a business meeting.
Chains of coffee bars should not be achieving the kinds of gains Starbucks stock has been achieving consistently for the last few years. Some people may be disappointed by slightly slower growth. I’m not.