Market commentary: Starbucks success and the end of the Comcast-Time Warner merger

On Thursday, after the European markets closed in the red, dragged down by concerns over Greece and disappointing economic data, US stocks closed in positive territory, with most investors turning their attention to the quarterly results of Starbucks and rumours that Comcast is going to withdraw its acquisition bid for Time Warner Cable due to regulatory opposition.

Seattle-based Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, reported earnings after the closing of US markets, posting revenue that exceeded expectations and profit in line with analysts’ forecasts. The company reported revenue for $4.56 billion in the first quarter of the year, $30 million ahead of analysts’ predictions and 18% up from the same period in 2014.

The coffee-shop chain confirmed to be one of the best run companies within the consumer discretionary sector, able to deliver compounded sales growth, quarter after quarter for the past 10 years.

Despite the strong dollar is likely to have negatively impacted the value of revenues generated outside US, the firm reported an increase in global same-stores sales of 7%, up from the 4.9% expansion rate registered in the previous quarter, and ahead of the a 5.1% anticipated by analysts.

The two major drivers behind the revenues’ growth were diversification and technology. While the bulk of revenues are still generated in US, the company’s global reach gives Starbucks room to grow in relatively new markets such as South America, China and the Pacific region where the coffee-chain expects to open around 850 new stores in 2015.

With its domestic market becoming increasingly suture, the ability to expand overseas is helping the firm to sustain its revenue growth target of 16%-18%. Starbucks has also begun to rip the fruits of products’ expansion, with food and tea supporting revenues and profitability by attracting customers outside the traditional coffee segment.

The second major driver was technology, which powers the company’s mobile-phone payment app and enables customers to place orders before arriving at the desired coffee shop. By positively contributing to the company’s results, it seems that CEO Howard Schultz’s bet on investing in continuous innovation and technology is paying off, shaking off concerns over the ability of Starbucks to implement its expansion and innovation strategy.

The reported EPS of $0.33 per share was in line with expectations, with the company confirming its guidelines for a FY15 EPS of $1.77-$1.79, better than the market consensus of $1.57.

Starbucks’ shares gained 2.27% ahead of the results and an additional 4.20% in after-hours trading, confirming to be a winning investment that has appreciated almost 22% since the beginning of the year, and over 41% throughout the past 12 months. In addition the company is also rewarding shareholders with a quarterly dividend of $0.16 per share, which was recently increased by 23.5%, and by undertaking a 2 to 1 stock split which has made the stock more retail-friendly.

Investors’ attention was also grabbed by rumours that Comcast, the US largest cable and contents provider, will withdraw its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, the country’s second largest cable provider, due to regulatory opposition that has “de facto” killed the deal.

The Department of Justice and the FCC have both expressed their opposition to the merger aimed concerns that the newly combine entity would have retained way to much market share and pricing power, lowering completion and consumers’ choices for a service provider.

Facing a long legal process without certainty of successful approval, Comcast seems to have decided to drop the $ 45.2 billion merger and will now try to refocus on customers’ retention, internet subscribers’ expansion and competitive contents’ development.

Following the news, share in Comcast rose 0.8% during regular trading. Shares in Time Warner Cable were down 0.6%, while its bonds lost over $782 million in value with the company’s $1.25 billion 4.5% notes due in 2042 plunging as much as 5.6 cents to 90.6.

This article was issued by Paolo Zonno Trader/Analyst at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, www.cc.com.mt . The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri & Co. Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.

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