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Starbucks' Valuation More Vulnerable Than Its Brand

Since returning to Starbucks for a second stint as CEO in 2008, Schultz has more than doubled the roasters' shares, while halting its store growth. In the past four years, Starbucks has only added 323 stores as net income has grown to $1.25 billion from $315 million, and revenue has risen over 12%.

"As Starbucks embarks on its new era of growth, we remain cautiously optimistic that SBUX can continue to simultaneously execute its strategy to drive strong [same-store-sales] in the U.S., expand internationally, and build a consumer packaged goods business with a critical level of scale," wrote Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog in a July 20 note to clients.

Herzog calls 2012 "a transitional year" for Starbucks, but says the company is fairly valued given that some growth initiates may cannibalize sales and create more complex operations.

Even those with a critical eye cast on Schultz's growth optimism see reason for his bullishness.

"We believe Starbucks has limited earnings upside potential in its fiscal third quarter given softness in Europe and the impact of the acquisition of La Boulange,"wrote William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia in a July 16 note to clients. "[We] continue to see value in Starbucks shares at 22 times our calendar 2013 estimate," Zackfia wrote in reiterating an outperform rating and expectations of 20%-plus EPS growth. The analyst cautions that Starbucks' 2013 guidance could fall short of expectations for 26% earnings per share growth, but operating margins in the U.S. and Asia may increase 21% and 38.7%, respectively.

Here's another take on Starbucks in a peak coffee era.

See top rated restaurant stocks for more on Starbucks.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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