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Starbucks' growth cooled in latest quarter

By Lisa Baertlein

Jan 23 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp on Thursday reported that sales at established stores in its U.S.-dominated Americas region cooled more than analysts expected in its latest quarter as consumers spent more time holiday shopping online than at physical stores.

Expectations had been muted ahead of the release of the results, in part because the Seattle company has been on a growth tear that many analysts said could not go on forever.

The world's biggest coffee chain posted net earnings of $540.7 million, or 71 cents per share, for the fiscal first quarter ended on Dec. 29. That compares with net profit of $432.2 million, or 57 cents per share, a year earlier.

Global sales at Starbucks cafes open at least 13 months were up 5 percent, versus analysts' average estimate for a 5.9 percent rise, according to Consensus Metrix. That figure included a 5 percent increase for the Americas region that contributes the lion's share of Starbucks revenue. Analysts, on average, expected a 6.4 percent rise from the region.

Last fiscal year, Starbucks' Americas region sales at restaurants open at least 13 months were up 8 percent in the fourth quarter and up 9 percent in the third quarter.