Key to the report will be what management says about fiscal 2012 guidance. Last quarter, management tightened the range for earnings, but didn't raise it. Another focus for investors will be the ramping up of new consumer product goods (CPG) initiatives, including the recent launch of Starbucks Refreshers energy drinks. An update on the planned launch of the single-serve Verismo machines along with any financial impact from these new initiatives will be closely watched.
Dunkin' Brands is expecting robust earnings growth this quarter, with the Bloomberg consensus estimate for the first quarter at $0.23, a 64% increase over last year. The biggest growth driver has been store growth -- expected to be about 3% to 5% in the U.S. (not including the Baskin Robbins brand) and 5.5% to 7% internationally annually. While the company did tweak international growth plans down moderately last quarter, better visibility on the long-term plan internationally is expected to emerge this year.
On the topic of coffee bean costs, Dunkin' won't benefit from the reduction, as Starbucks and others will, because their model is nearly 100% franchised. The cost benefit will go to the franchisee and help improve their individual cash flow, potentially opening up the opportunity for them to increase investment in existing and new locations. Dunkin' has benefited from the success of its K-cup launch in August and has seen its weaker Baskin Robbins business begin to stabilize. Those trends are expected to continue in this earnings report.The stock has traded sideways into earnings, but John Ivankoe, an equities analyst at JPMorgan, recommends buying the shares more aggressively only at lower prices. Enron 10 Years After -- From Bad to Worse >> Dunkin' and Starbucks will set the stage for earnings from other coffee companies including Peet's Coffee (PEET), Green Mountain (GMCR) and Caribou Coffee (CBOU), all of which will report earnings next week. The quarter is expected to be impacted by coffee bean prices that were locked in last year at higher rates, making this a tough quarter to swallow for specialty coffee companies. Guidance will be the focus and any commentary on commodity cost relief for next year. -- Written by Lindsey Bell in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to Lindsey Bell.