Global coffee giant Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) posted fiscal fourth quarter results that were weaker than expected after the closing bell Thursday. The company also announced that it will sell its Tazo Tea brand to U.K. consumer goods giant Unilever (UL) for $384 million. Starbucks bought the brand back in in 1999 for just $8.1 million.
While investors immediately sold off shares following the news, SBUX closed up 2.1% on Friday after Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson offered a new long-term outlook he believes the firm can meet and exceed to stay “within the the top quartile of revenue growth for S&P 500 Consumer Discretionary companies.” At $56.03, SBUX reflects a mere 0.9% gain year-to-date (YTD) versus the S&P 500’s 15.6% increase over the same period. (See also: Starbucks Is the High-End Leader: Morgan Stanley.)
In Q4, the Seattle-based food and coffee chain demonstrated that it is still struggling to regain footing amid a challenging retail and restaurant landscape in the U.S. Earnings of $0.55 per share were in line with the consensus estimate, while revenue of $5.7 billion fell short of forecasts for $5.8 billion. Same-store sales increased 2%, also missing estimates for 3.3% growth.
In the long-term, the coffee leader now expects long-term annual EPS growth of at least 12%, compared to its previous forecast of 15% to 20%. Annual global same-store sales growth is expected to come in between 3% and 5%, while annual consolidated net revenue growth is forecasted in the high single digits.
CEO Confident in Brand
Shares tumbled as much as 7% in after-hours trading on Thursday, yet managed to bounce back following positive remarks from Johnson during an interview with CNBC. The CEO said the company has been looking at a variety of data sources including restaurant industry studies, credit card data and same-store sales trackers to set its forecasts.
"It's fair to say the overall U.S. retail-restaurant industry has been very flat on sales and actually negative on transactions," said the CEO. "The fact that we were able to build over 2,000 Starbucks stores globally that are performing at higher annual unit volumes than other generations in an era where retailers are closing stores at a record pace gives us confidence that there's affinity for the brand."
Johnson dubbed the U.S. and China “two powerful growth engines” that will fuel consistent long-term profitable growth for shareholders. (See also: Buy Starbucks at a Discount: Deutsche Bank.)