By Leslie Patton
Starbucks, the world's largest coffee-shop chain, said fourth-quarter profit rose 34 percent as it attracted U.S. diners with seasonal drinks and new pastries.
Net income in the three months ended Sept. 29 increased to $481.1 million, or 63 a share, from $359 million, or 46 cents, a year earlier, the Seattle-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Analysts estimated 60 cents a share, the average of 27 projections compiled by Bloomberg.
Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz has been pursuing new avenues of growth, including higher-quality bakery food and tea, as the company opens more stores across the U.S. Restaurants that cater to higher-income consumers, such as Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., are outperforming McDonald's Corp. and other less-expensive fast-food joints.
Sales at Starbucks stores open at least 13 months increased 8 percent in the Americas. Analysts estimated a 7.1 percent gain, according to Consensus Metrix, a researcher owned by Wayne, N.J.-based Kaul Advisory Group.
Starbucks fell 1.1 percent to $79.87 at 4:09 p.m. in New York. The shares climbed 51 percent this year through the close of regular trading today, compared with a 24 percent gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Restaurants Index.