Starbucks Stands Its Ground(s)

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In an earnings season steeped in tepid quarterly results for consumer-facing companies, Starbucks (NAS: SBUX) is still holding its own.

Starbucks' fiscal third-quarter net income increased 34%, to $279.1 million, or $0.36 per share. Total revenue increased 12%, to $2.9 billion, and same-store sales surged 8%. Even better, the comps growth was driven by increased customer traffic, as opposed to increases in the average ticket. The coffee giant even grew operating margin by 120 basis points, to 13.7%.

These are significant achievements in the current climate. Consumers' constrained budgets could have taken a serious toll on Starbucks in the near term. Shareholders can breathe a sigh of relief at the company's continued strength.

Even on a good day, the competitive landscape for coffee chains can be cruel. McDonald's (NYS: MCD) , which has been aggressively lobbying for the coffee crowd, recently reported its own stellar results. Still, it looks like the Golden Arches didn't take too much momentum from Starbucks.

This week's hot IPO, Dunkin' Brands (NAS: DNKN) , reminds us of just how much rivalry Starbucks faces. A peek into Dunkin's IPO filing reveals that coffee and other beverages represent 60% of Dunkin's sales. So much for those doughnuts.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NAS: GMCR) also aims to siphon Starbucks' customers with its popular Keurig single-cup brewing system. Starbucks recently announced that it's partnering with Green Mountain to offer its own branded K-Cups for the brewer. That's no competitive advantage, though, since Dunkin' has a K-Cup deal of its own.

Although Starbucks' forward price-to-earnings ratio of 22 may sound pricey compared to stocks like McDonald's, let's not forget that the java giant has recently further focused plans to drive deeper into the China market. That could serve up even more growth for Starbucks -- and justify its current premium.

At the time this article was published Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, McDonald's, and Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a lurking gator position in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended shorting Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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