shares were moving up in premarket trading Wednesday, the morning after the company said same-store sales rose at their best clip in three years.
The results topped Wall Street's estimates, but some analysts were skeptical of the company's ability to sustain strong comps heading into 2004, which they said could eventually pressure the stock's price.
Shares of the company were recently up 84 cents, or 2.7%, at $32.35, according to Instinet.
Tuesday after the bell, the company said same-store sales rose 11% in the four-week period ended Nov. 23 and that total revenue was $387 million, an increase of 28% year over year. The last time same-store sales rose this much was in November 2001.
Lehman Brothers analyst Mitchell Speiser had expected the current month's comps to rise 7% and for revenue to rise 23.5%. Despite the upside surprise, he was still cautious on the long-term.
"U.S. momentum is as strong as ever, but flow-through has been lacking. The shares have not been reacting well to very strong comps, leading us to believe that there is vulnerability to any slowdown," said Speiser in a research report. (Lehman Brothers makes a market in Starbucks securities.)
Additionally, the analyst raised his December comps forecast to a rise of 8% from an initial prediction of 7%.
John Ivankoe, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, had been calling for November same-store sales to rise 8%. Ivankoe also noted, however, that it might be hard to maintain the comps in December and beyond.
"December is a notoriously difficult month, given the high mix of non-beverage merchandise, and January will mark the start of very difficult two-year comparisons," he said. From the second quarter 2004 through the fourth quarter 2004, Ivankoe sees same-store sales gains slowing to the mid-single digits.
The analyst believes Starbucks stock will trade higher in the near term because of the strong November sales, but he sees problems in 2004 when the growth rate slows. (J.P. Morgan makes a market in Starbucks securities.)
The company also said that in the first eight weeks of the current quarter, same-stores sales were up 10%, while total sales are at $750 million, up 29% over last year.
In addition, Starbucks has opened 202 new stores during the quarter to date, bringing its total to 7,427 as of Nov. 23.