NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- I am finishing a 10-day vacation in Russia and Finland (I wrote this in Helsinki, which is not as cold in winter as you would imagine), and I was again struck by one of the great American exports: Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report .
I last discussed the global power of this brand after a trip to India nearly a year ago. My swing through the Baltic region only reinforced my view that Starbucks' global growth opportunity has only just begun. In 20 years, Starbucks could be what McDonald's (MCD) - Get Report or Coca-Cola (KO) - Get Report are now: ubiquitous brands that aren't seen as "American," but are weaved into the fabric of everyday life in every region in which they operate. Importantly, Starbucks is an aspirational lifestyle brand -- less so in the U.S., but importantly around the world. In most developing countries, sitting in a Starbucks, sipping a latte and working on your laptop is not about the coffee. It is about announcing that you have disposable income and are a citizen of the modern world.
In Eastern Europe, penetration is only just beginning. Happily, the weather and the cafe cultures are conducive to far higher penetration. The screen-grab below from an interactive map of Starbucks locations shows the vast swathes of green that are "green field" opportunities for the company. In fact, Starbucks is already starting to saturate marketing that is so familiar (and sometimes poked fun at in the U.S. In St. Petersburg, Russia, we saw two units across from each other at one particularly busy corner. In the major cities of the world, there is no reason to think Starbucks could not achieve some level of ubiquity that can drive unit growth for years to come. (You can study Starbucks' global penetration on this map.)
I'm convinced that Starbucks unit opportunity is at least two to three times its current footprint of around 20,000 units, and, of course, there is additional leverage from growing unit economics. I can't argue that shares are cheap, selling at 30 times the 2015 analysts' average estimate of $3.13 a share. There will be inevitable hiccups and headwinds in growth along the way, such as the recent rise in the U.S. dollar, which shrinks foreign sales, but, happily, makes coffee imports cheaper. My estimate is that over the next five years, Starbucks could double earnings. The multiple is likely to contract somewhat, but the net should offer attractive gains for shareholders.
At the time of publication, Dvorchak had no positions in the stocks mentioned.
Gary Dvorchak is a managing member of Channel Island Partners LLC, a Los Angeles-based hedge fund that manages large cap growth and growth-and-income funds. Dvorchak holds a master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Iowa.