Why Wedbush Sees Starbucks Slowing Down

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Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) has made a decent run in 2017 so far, as the stock is up about 9% year to date. This is relatively in pace with the S&P 500, but one analyst thinks that Starbucks might slow down for the rest of the year. Although Wedbush is not making that big a shift in its call, the firm did make sure to say that it now views current 2017 and 2018 expectations as realistic and the valuation is fair.

Wedbush downgraded Starbucks to Neutral from Outperform but maintained its $65 price target, versus a prior closing price of $60.92.

In the firm’s opinion, the recent outperformance reflects expectations for U.S. comp acceleration in the second half of 2017. Starbucks is up 12.3% since mid-March (3/14), versus 3.2% for the S&P 500, and it is now within 7% of its price target. The brokerage firm believes this recent outperformance is predicated on expectations for a second half U.S. comp reacceleration following signs of improving trends in March and April.

Wedbush’s recent checks of 5% of U.S. co-owned locations point to a modest acceleration in the fiscal third quarter. However, the firm expects overall fiscal third quarter Americas comps to be in line to slightly below 5.3% consensus. Wedbush is continuing to model 5% for the fiscal third quarter.

In terms of operating margins in Americas, the firm is modeling 24.7% in fiscal 2017 and 25.1% in fiscal 2018, compared with the consensus estimates calling for 24.5% and 25.1%, respectively. Wedbush would expect any potential upside to be reinvested in partner and technology initiatives.

Wedbush finished off its report addressing the international segments:

We also see EMEA, CAP and Channel Development segments in line with expectations. We view EMEA and CAP comp expectations implying reacceleration to 1.5% and 5% in 2H as realistic, but believe further upside is unlikely. We also do not see upside in Channel Development given expectations for continued margin expansion and top line improvement, despite several quarters of underperformance and limited visibility into drivers for U.S. reacceleration.

Shares of Starbucks were trading down 0.8% at $60.45 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $66.52 and a 52-week range of $50.84 to $64.87.