Will Starbucks Become the Next Major $100 Stock?

Chris Lange

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) recently reported its fiscal first-quarter results, which were totally in line with estimates. The coffee giant stuck with the optimistic tone and guided higher for 2015 full year revenue. Starbucks said it opened 512 net new stores and that comparable store transactions increased by 12 million globally.

The big question is whether Starbucks can become the next major stock that trades for $100 or higher. Much depends on the company’s execution, as well as how the international markets’ economies hold up in the regions into which the company wants to expand. Following this strong performance, some analysts have made calls in recent days with big expected upside.

Argus maintained a Buy rating for Starbucks and raised its price target to $99 from $90. The revised target, along with the dividend, implies a potential total return of roughly 14% from current levels. Argus reiterated its earnings per share estimates for the 2015 fiscal year of $3.20 and the 2016 fiscal year of $3.76. The independent research firm bases its rating on the belief that Starbucks will continue to accelerate store openings, remodel stores, navigate difficulties in Europe and integrate acquisitions.

In China, Argus continues to see tremendous potential. Average unit volumes are expected to increase, with help from new growth initiatives. Basically, management believes it can increase revenue during the morning hours at Starbucks, although most sales currently take place in the afternoon.

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Merrill Lynch continues to rate Starbucks as a Buy and it raised the price objective to $98 from $87. The raised valuation reflects investor concerns that were addressed. The estimate for earnings per share was only raised slightly to $3.11. In the most recent earnings report, Starbucks narrowed its fiscal-year 2015 earnings per share range to $3.09 to $3.13.

Starbucks board member and ex-CEO of Juniper Networks, Kevin Johnson, was named to be president and chief operating officer of Starbucks, effective March 1.

S&P Capital IQ maintained a Buy rating on Starbucks and raised its price target to $94, which is 25.5 times its 2016 earnings per share estimate of $3.68. The firm maintained its 2015 earnings per share estimate at $3.15, just above the narrowed guidance range. S&P Capital said that it was impressed with another quarter of 5% comparable store sales, driven by traffic and ticket increases, and that it sees further initiatives driving up sales.

Wells Fargo reiterated an Outperform rating and maintained its valuation range of $94 to $96. The brokerage firm described its outlook on Starbucks:

Despite the significant investments Starbucks is making in fiscal-year 2015, most notably its largest investment ever in its employees and rolling out mobile pay technology, we believe Starbucks will continue to deliver solid results in fiscal year 2015 through innovation, international growth and cost savings, and importantly set Starbucks up for an even stronger fiscal year 2016 and beyond … We believe this foresight combined with SBUX’s robust innovation pipeline, impressive execution and financial discipline positions it for impressive near and long-term results

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Wells Fargo considers the Starbucks mobile order and pay ecosystem to be the most successful and powerful one of its kind in the world. This ecosystem was able to drive up traffic and transactions per store. Later on in the second half of 2015, Starbucks plans to introduce delivery, which may be done through a third party or its own employees. The investment thesis from Wells Fargo was:

As Starbucks embarks on its new era of growth, we are optimistic that it can continue to simultaneously execute its strategy to: (1) drive strong Same Store Sales, (2) expand internationally, and (3) build a global consumer packaged goods business with a critical level of scale. Overall, we believe Starbucks is on solid footing for 2015 and believe there is upside in the stock that is not reflected in current valuation.

Shares of Starbucks were up about 0.5% to $88.60 midday Tuesday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $95.32 and a 52-week trading range of $67.93 to $88.82.