Starbucks, Waiting For Earnings (SBUX, WFMI, MCD)

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ:SBUX) has seen its stock under pressure since the end of 2006.  Tonight it reports earnings, and First Call estimates are $0.21 EPS and almost $2.4 Billion in revenues.  The next quarter estimates are $0.21 EPS and $2.44 Billion in revenues, and next quarter marks the fiscal 2007-end.  Fiscal September-2008 looks like estimates are $1.06 EPS on revenues of $11.33 Billion, although we would caution that the range is wider than closer earnings because of 15-months outlook.

We already discussed how the company has a long way to go before itcan fix its woes.  Upon some store revisits it seems the company is trying, and we have already been given notice of some price hikes that are going to be passed on to yours truly and you.  The larger food initiative that is being rolled out on top of last year’s rollout is still in the infancy, so perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of the company’s thoughts there.  The company has been under pressure from McDonalds (NYSE:MCD) and faces other pressure from Dunkin and others.  Here was our list of suggestions in May for the company to follow after we did a series of store evaluations in various locations.

What is interesting is if we take this into the consumer-meets-investor mindset.  Last night Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI) posted stronger than expected or not as weak of results, and shares are up big today as a result.  Sure these comapnies are in different segments, but what they have in common is a loyal client base AND large earnings and valuation multiples compared to their competitors.  A 30+ P/E ratio used to be a 40+ P/E ratio for the longest time.  The question is what P/E multiple can victory be declared for a fair value.  We ran a piece wondering if shares had come close to a bottom at the end of June, and that is still an outstanding item. 

It’s quite possible that this multiple may need to compress further, but using the forward 2008 multiple it trades at an estimated 25.1 forward P/E.  Some will still deem this high if the market continues its weakness and volatility, but with earnings per share growth at more than 20% it becomes and argument over who will pay what for that growth.  If you wanted to use a ‘forward’  PEG ratio of 1.25 this becomes cheaper, with the flaw being that this is trying to fast-forward a year.  Based on that, this could still face more pressure as investors and traders fight over what the true value is.  But with the 52-week high of $40.00 and the curent $26.60 price it just looks and feels like the worst could be behind it.  One earnings warning or major hiccup will blow holes in that theory, and that always has to be kept in mind. 

Starbucks also saw its most recent short interest rise from 25.8 million shares in June to almost 27.4 million shares in July.  Options traders based on a static quote mid-day appear to be braced for a price move of just over 2.2% in either direction, although that is arguable with shares being stuck between strike prices.  The average analyst price target is still $35.00 or higher.

Jon C. Ogg
August 1, 2007

Jon Ogg can be reached at; he does not own securities in the companies he covers.