Starbucks Profit Rises 35%, But Shares Fall

Starbucks earnings rose 35 percent over last year, helped by a larger number of stores and a recent price increase that boosted sales, but shares of the coffee merchant fell after markets closed.

Oliver P. Quillia for

Starbucks reported a profit of $158.5 million, or 21 cents a share, on sales of $2.44 billion, compared with earnings of $117.3, or 17 cents a share, on revenue of $2 billion in the same period last year.

The performance was in line with forecasts: A consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Financial put Starbucks' fiscal fourth-quarter earnings at 21 cents a share on sales of $2.42 billion.

Sales at coffee shops open at least 13 months, or same-store sales, rose 4 percent during the quarter, helped by a July price increase.

Still, shares of Starbucks fell more than 5 percent in electronic trading after closing 0.62 percent lower at $24.10 on Thursday.

The chain forecast 2008 earnings below many Wall Street estimates due to weak consumer spending. Starbucks, which said customer traffic was flat during the fourth quarter, also forecast 2008 sales at stores open at least 13 months at the low end of its long-term targeted range.

The Seattle company said it expected 2008 same-store sales to rise between 3 percent and 5 percent. That marked a shift from recent years, in which Starbucks had set a long-term same-store sales growth goal of 3 percent to 7 percent.

For fiscal 2008, Starbucks said it would open 2,500 stores, down from its previous target of 2,600. It cited "the challenging operating environment'' for the change.

-- Reuters contributed to this report.