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Bill Ackman Comments on Starbucks

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) reported a superlative fiscal third quarter driven by a meaningful acceleration in same-store sales and a return to transaction growth in its two key markets, the U.S. and China. Global same-store sales grew 6%, with equal contributions from transactions and ticket. This was the first quarter since early 2016 in which same-store sales grew in excess of 4%, as well as the first quarter since then with positive transaction growth both globally and in the U.S. The store base continued to grow at a 7% rate, generating 11% organic revenue growth.

U.S. same-store sales grew 7%, including transaction growth of 3%, which management called an "inflection point" and a "step change" from the 4% same-store sales growth achieved in the prior three quarters, and the 1% to 2% growth achieved in the previous year. Same-store sales grew across all dayparts, including in the afternoon for the first time in three years. The key drivers of U.S. sales were in-store operational enhancements, cold beverage innovation - including Nitro Cold Brew which is now in two-thirds of stores and will be in all stores by September 30 - and continued digital strength, with the company's seamless rollout of recent loyalty program changes.

China same-store sales grew 6%, including transaction growth of 2%, which is impressive considering the 16% growth in the Starbucks China store base, and in light of rapid expansion by competitors. Mobile order and pay, a capability that we believe is even more critical in China than it is in the U.S., was launched in one-third of stores this quarter and should be an important catalyst for growth going forward.

The market has recognized that Starbucks, in the words of CEO Kevin Johnson, is "firing on all cylinders," with the stock up 52% this year, bringing the total stock price return since we invested last summer to 96% (10). The stock now trades at just over 30 times consensus fiscal 2020 EPS, a premium to its historical average valuation, which we believe appropriately reflects a clear outlook for mid-teens underlying EPS growth over the next several years, near-term momentum in the business which could prove current earnings estimates to be conservative, and a superb management team that is focused on creating value for shareholders.

From Bill Ackman (Trades, Portfolio)'s second-quarter 2019 Pershing Square shareholder letter.
This article first appeared on GuruFocus.