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Starbucks profit up, U.S. sales surprisingly strong

A woman prepares her drink in a Starbucks store in New York in this file photo from June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid /Files
A woman prepares her drink in a Starbucks store in New York in this file photo from June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid /Files

By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp on Thursday posted a bigger than expected jump in quarterly profit after new fruit "Refresher" energy drinks and seasonal Frappuccino iced beverages helped drive more visits to shops in the United States, its top market.

The world's biggest coffee chain also raised its full-year profit forecast, sending shares soaring more than 6 percent in after-hours trade.

Seattle-based Starbucks is a top destination for consumers with ample cash to spend on $3 to $5 lattes and other premium coffee drinks.

As a result, the company's rapidly expanding retail presence has helped it withstand the economic weakness that is crimping fast-food chains and other operators.

McDonald's Corp and Panera Bread Co were among the chains hit by the summer swoon.

Starbucks net earnings for the fiscal third quarter that ended on June 30 increased more than 25 percent to $417.8 million, or 55 cents per share, to beat analysts' average forecast by 2 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Global sales at Starbucks cafes open at least 13 months jumped 8 percent, versus the 5.8 percent average increase analysts' expected, according to Consensus Metrix.

In the U.S.-dominated Americas region, which contributes about three-quarters of the chain's revenue, same-store sales were up 9 percent, far better than analysts' average estimate for a 6.1 percent rise.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz said the company is benefiting from efforts to increase sales by buying tea, juice and bakery companies and linking its cafe business, grocery product sales and loyalty card programs.

Same-store sales also increased 9 percent for China and the Asia Pacific region and 2 percent for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, an area that has struggled to grow.

Based on results from the latest quarter, Starbucks boosted its full-year forecast to $2.22 to $2.23 per share from a previous range of $2.12 to $2.18 per share.

The company, which recently bought tea retailer Teavana, juice maker Evolution Fresh and La Boulange Bakery and is waiting for a arbitration ruling on its grocery coffee distribution dispute with Kraft Foods Inc , said it planned to issue additional long-term debt over the next quarters to take advantage of favorable market conditions.

Executives would not comment on the Kraft arbitration or plans for future acquisitions.

Shares in Starbucks, which has more than 19,000 cafes around the world, shares were up 6.3 percent at $72.45 in extended trading late on Thursday.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Ken Wills)

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