Starbucks (SBUX) shares fell the most in nearly six months Friday after the coffee chain unveiled an aggressive expansion strategy in China that could be at risk from slowing consumer sales in the world's second-largest economy and guided investors to modestly long-term earnings growth.
Starbucks said it sees long-term earnings growth of around 10%, down from a previous forecast of around 12% and said same-store sales expansion will likely grow at a 3% to 3.4% rate even after a newly-unveiled partnership with Uber Eats. Starbucks also said it plans to expand its store footprint in the world's second-largest economy by 6,000 stores over the next four years, nearly double it current total, and will open a so-called "virtual" store that utilizes both its own app and those of online e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding (BABA) , a tie-up CEO Kevin Johnson once described as "rocket fuel" for the group's growth strategy.
"Coffee is one of the fastest growing beverage categories globally and our over 350,000 partners around the world who wear the green apron are now serving 100 million customer occasions a week," Johnson told investors Thursday. "We have long been performance driven while staying true to our mission and values to create positive change and global social impact. The leadership team and I believe Starbucks is better positioned than ever for continued success."
Starbucks shares were marked 2.9% lower by mid afternoon trading in New York and changing hands at $64.96 each, a move that would trim the stock's three-month gain to around 18% and value the Seattle, Wash.-based coffee chain at just under $82 billion.
Official data published Friday showed retail sales in China rose at at the weakest pace since 2003 last month, while other portions of the economy, including new car sales, have slumped to the weakest in more than a decade as the damage from the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing takes its toll.
The news clouded the impact of a series of upgrades for Starbucks' shares this morning, with BMO Capital Markets raising its price target to $63 a share from $58 a share while Well Fargo and RBC boosted their target prices to $73 and $74 a share respectively.
Starbucks "appropriately reset the bar lower for same-store sales growth (+3-4%) and EPS growth (10%+) for the long-term algorithm," said Oppenheimer analyst Brian Bittner. "While still now a lay-up, the company does have interesting strategies to maintain its recent momentum, particularly as new digitial initiatives rollout and gain steam."
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