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In 2013 Starbucks Is America

So while he's seen as a Democrat, he's not seen as outside the mainstream. The stance also helps grow the company's international footprint. Schultz's politics are seen as benign.

Right now most of Starbucks issues are similar to those which bedeviled another American icon, McDonald's (MCD - Get Report), when it first sought global domination. McDonald's is a little more than twice as big as Starbucks. There are two issues here -- adapting the product to local tastes, and extending the sales day.

McDonald's rolled out veggie burgers in India, along with kosher and halal food in the Middle East. Starbucks has bought a second tea brand, Teavana, the Evolution Fresh juice brand and Pascal Rigo's La Boulange bakery chain. Starbucks has even experimented with selling beer, wine and small plates in some markets, which it calls Starbucks Evenings.

Thus, in a market that some call overheated, Starbucks is selling at an insane (for a food company) multiple of 36.5 times its earnings, and nearly five times its sales. Yet it remains on the buy lists for most analysts, having quadrupled in value over the last five years, rising 42% in 2013 alone. Our Chuck Carnavale is also a big fan.

Five years ago Starbucks closed all its stores for a night of retraining and staff pep talks, then it closed 600 stores. Today Starbucks is through the crisis, the stock is a blue chip and CEO Schultz is a business legend.

That's the kind of story America likes to sell, and it's also the kind of story the world likes to buy from us.

At the time of publication the author held MCD.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.
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