Pumpkin-flavored drinks, artificial intelligence, and caffeinated growth in China helped Starbucks serve up fourth-quarter results that left investors in a mood to buy Wednesday afternoon.
For the fiscal quarter ending September 29, the Seattle coffee giant reported net earnings of $802.9 million, or 67 cents a share, up 6.2% over a year ago, on revenues of $6.75 billion, which were up 7% year over year.
Though the numbers only modestly beat analysts’ expectations, they were enough to send Starbucks’ shares up 3% in after-hours trading, to nearly $87.
That bounce may partly reflect investors’ relief after a September 4th announcement by the company that it was lowering its earnings forecast for 2020. Shares, which were trading just below the all-time high of $99.72, have since fallen nearly 12%.
CEO Kevin Johnson and other company executives were especially pleased by Starbucks’ performance in China, where fourth quarter same-store sales jumped 5% year year-over-year even though the number of stores in China has grown by 603, to 4,125. Worldwide, the Starbucks store fleet grew by nearly 2,000, to more than 31,000.
In a conference call with analysts, Johnson also credited the Starbucks customer loyalty program, which grew 15%, to 17.6 million members.
That growth is critical, Johnson said, because when customers become rewards members, “their spend level increases meaningfully.”
Overall company performance was also buoyed by seasonal drinks sales, including beverages from the company’s “pumpkin platform,” as executives call it, along with continued investments in an artificial-intelligence app, known as “Deep Brew,” that personalizes product recommendations for customers.
For its 2019 fiscal year, Starbucks reported income of $3.6 billion, down 20.3% from fiscal year 2018.
Wednesday’s results, which came out alongside positive earnings reports by companies such as Apple and Facebook, were seen by some as confirmation that the consumer-driven economy remains strong, despite some concerns of a pre-holiday slowdown.
As one Starbucks fan tweeted out on Wednesday, “Starbucks is a great indicator of the economy. If people have disposable income to spend on $5.00 cups of coffee, life is good.”