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Starbucks Sales Estimates Raised at Cowen After Firm Meets With Management

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Analysts at Cowen raised their sales estimates for Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report after they came away positive on management's presentation of new slate of drinks and sales strategy.

Starbucks shares were outpacing the broader market Monday, up 0.8% at $90.77 a share, while the S&P 500 was flat.

Cowen analyst Andrew Charles raised his same-store-sales-growth estimate to 5% and 3.5% for fourth-quarter 2019 and full-year 2020, respectively. That's up from prior forecasts of 4% and 3%.

"We came away from our meetings with greater appreciation of Starbucks's growth at scale playbook," Charles wrote in a Monday morning note, citing "beverage innovation and digital engagement."

Charles mentioned Starbucks is rolling out its Nitro Cold Brew in 20% of its U.S. locations and its Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. He also said digital sales are a key part of driving sales of the new items.

Perhaps most important, management intends to refresh its lineup of beverages every two to three years to keep up with customer preferences.

Digital sales accounted for 2% of Starbucks' comparable-sales growth in the third quarter, up from 1% in the entire first half of of 2019. Digital-rewards memberships grew 14% in the April quarter, as the total number of members hit above 17 million.

The kicker on the digital front for Charles is that "beyond 2020, the company is working to make mobile order and pay `tender agnostic' and allow payment to draw from a credit or debit card, rather than a Starbucks stored-value card today."

He added, "The company views this as another unlock to increasing app downloads."

This comports with the sentiment of other analysts. "SBUX has seen steady conversion from digitally registered customers to the My Starbucks Rewards program and highlighted that the magnitude of the digitally registered customer base still provides significant potential to drive membership growth going forward," Goldman Sachs's Katherine Fogertey wrote after meeting with CFO Patrick Grismer in early September.

In August, Starbucks reported an " absolutely stunning quarter," Jim Tierney, chief investment officer of concentrated U.S. growth at Alliance Bernstein, told TheStreet.

Earnings per share were an adjusted 78 cents, beating analysts' estimates of 72 cents. U.S. same-store-sales growth was 7% year-over-year.

Charles did note that Starbucks will have a slightly higher tax rate, which has brought EPS expectations slightly lower, partly offset by his higher sales estimates.

He expects 2020 EPS growth of 10.4% to $3.11, versus the consensus estimate of $3.10.

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