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Starbucks' Grande February

But the company warns 13% same-store sales can't last.
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reported blistering sales growth in February, caffeined up by customers who redeemed gift cards they got for Christmas. But the company warned the pace is unsustainable over the long term.

Investors focused on the warning and offered the shares down about 3.6% in after-hours trading. Starbucks last traded at $37.55 on Instinet, down from its 4 p.m. close of $38.95.

The Seattle coffee-shop operator posted net revenue of $380 million in the four weeks ended Feb. 22, up 32% from last year on a 13% jump in company-owned same-store sales.

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It said the growth reflects "the continuing strength of our core business," but given the holiday benefit, don't expect it to last.

"The current high level of revenue performance is not sustainable," Starbucks said. "February 2004 benefited from strong post-holiday Starbucks Card redemptions and an early start to our annual Brewing Event. We continue to believe approximately 20% revenue growth and 3 to 7% comparable-store sales growth is the right level for longer-term expectations," it said.

Starbucks is expected to earn 17 cents a share in the quarter ending in March on sales of $1.17 billion, although the sales estimate is likely to come up given the Street's expectation for a same-store sales gain of 10%. Year-to-date same-store sales climbed 11%, while total sales rose 29% to $2 billion from $1.6 billion a year earlier.