Starbucks sales disappoint as growth slows in crucial Asia market; plans to sell Tazo, launch credit card

Starbucks reported disappointing sales growth at its coffee shops around the world Thursday. The coffee giant also said it’s selling its Tazo tea brand to focus on Teavana, and it will launch a credit card with Chase.

Starbucks didn’t get what it ordered last quarter from its biggest growth opportunity: Asia.

Same-store sales in the region rose 2 percent in the quarter ending Oct. 1, short of the 3.2 percent predicted by analysts. The performance contributed to generally sluggish results, sending the shares down as much as 7.5 percent in late after-hours trading.

The slow sales reflect a broader problem for the world’s biggest coffee chain. After saturating much of the U.S. with cafes, it needs overseas markets more than ever to maintain growth. While Chinese demand for coffee is still surging, it’s getting harder for the company to find blockbuster opportunities.

The Seattle-based roaster was hit by growing pains as the company took charges related to restructuring and refining its operations. Major hurricanes that hit two of the most populous U.S. states also clipped same-store sales growth, the company said.

“We’ve been streamlining the business,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said in an interview after the release of results.

Total comparable sales rose 2 percent, short of the estimate of 3.2 percent from Consensus Metrix. After excluding the effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma — which mauled Texas and Florida during the quarter and forced Starbucks to close a total of 1,100 locations — same-store sales growth was 3 percent.
The shares dropped as low as $50.75 in extended trading on Thursday.

The company also announced deals to sell its Tazo tea brand to Unilever and launch a credit card with Chase.

It said Unilever will pay $384 million for Tazo in a deal that is expected to be completed in the next year. Unilever, which owns Lipton, PG Tips and other tea brands, called the acquisition a “perfect strategic fit.” Starbucks, which bought Tazo about 18 years ago for $8.1 million, said it wants to focus on its Teavana tea brand. Although Starbucks has been shutting down stand-alone Teavana stores, it still sells its teas in stores.
“Teavana is the brand we want to focus on exclusively,” Johnson said.

The company expects to launch a Starbucks-branded credit card with Chase this winter. A prepaid card will come later.

The company said both cards will allow customers to earn…

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