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Nov 1 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp on Thursday reported a better-than-expected rise in quarterly sales at established stores as it benefited from higher prices in the United States and a rebound in China, sending its shares up nearly 9 percent.
The world's largest coffee chain is battling intense competition in the United States, its largest market, from both high-end coffee shops and fast-food chains.
In response, the company has been closing underperforming stores, revamping owned and licensed businesses, and introducing new menu items such as cold drinks to lure customers during slower afternoon hours.
Those efforts helped drive a 4 percent rise in the company's sales at established U.S. cafes in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, well above the 2.76 percent rise expected by analysts, according to IBES data by Refinitiv. Average ticket per customer rose 4 percent in the quarter.
"We are particularly encouraged by the acceleration of growth in the U.S. market," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. "The business is doing enough to keep itself moving forward for now."
Starbuck's strong results come just weeks after activist investor Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP disclosed a roughly $900 million position in Starbucks.
Quarterly same-store sales in China also rose 2 percent, reversing a decline from the third quarter and driving a 3 percent rise in global comparable store sales.
The coffee chain's business in China, its fastest-growing market in recent years, slowed significantly last quarter amid fierce competition and stricter regulations on delivery services.
Since then the company has partnered with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to deliver its coffee in Chinese cities.
"As we enter fiscal 2019, we are executing against a clear growth agenda, with a focus on our long-term growth markets of the U.S. and China," Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said.
Total net revenue rose to $6.30 billion, beating expectations of $6.27 billion.
Excluding items, the company earned 62 cents per share also beating expectations of 60 cents, while its adjusted profit forecast for fiscal 2019 was in line with expectations.
However, net income attributable to the company fell to $755.8 million from $788.5 million.
Starbucks shares were up 8.8 percent at $63.80 in after-hours trading, adding to the year's modest growth of 1.5 percent. (Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)