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Starbucks Q1 Earnings Preview: International Business Will Be in Focus

In the fiscal year 2021 (ended Oct. 3), global coffee giant Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) did an excellent job battling through the economic headwinds caused by the pandemic. It hopes to sustain that momentum in the fiscal year 2022.

The company's North American segment is on a more sound footing, so the key for performance in the first quarter and the rest of 2022 will be the international segment. Investors will find out how the restaurant chain's efforts in this regard have fared when it reports fiscal 2022 first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Image source: Getty Images.

Starbucks is focusing on international growth

Interestingly, in Starbucks' fourth-quarter report, comparable-store sales increased by 22% from the same quarter the year before in North America. The region's governments took a more relaxed approach to the rise of COVID-19 infections throughout the year. As a result, Starbucks was able to keep most of its reopened locations in operation throughout the year.

In contrast, comparable-store sales from its international segment increased by just 3% in Q4. Non-U.S. governments were more aggressive in implementing business restrictions in response to a growing wave of coronavirus cases. We should find out if those policies caused Starbucks continued trouble in Q1. The omicron variant created a surge of new COVID-19 cases and that might have led consumers to become more cautious about leaving their homes. Government response with temporary closures and renewed restrictions might further exacerbate Starbucks' ability to operate.

Despite the short-term challenges, Starbucks management said it is focusing its attention on international growth. The company projects it will open about 2,000 new locations globally in 2022, with roughly 75% of that growth targeted for outside the U.S. One reason for that focus could be the significantly lower expenses to operate a store outside the U.S. Consider that in 2021, store-level operating expenses as a percentage of revenue were 50% in the North American segment. Meanwhile, they were only 43.8% internationally.

Add to that fact that labor shortages in the U.S. led Starbucks to announce significant wage increases so that it can attract sufficient staff to run the stores, and it's no surprise why the bulk of its new locations are international. That being said, those plans can be thwarted or slowed considerably by the pandemic effects in international segments.

What it could mean for Starbucks investors

Analysts on Wall Street expect Starbucks to report revenue of $7.97 billion in Q1 and earnings per share (EPS) of $0.79. If it meets those estimates, it would be increases of 15% and 29.5%, respectively, from the same time last year. That is slower revenue growth than the company has experienced in the previous three quarters. It could be that analysts are pricing in a deceleration in revenue caused by the rise in the omicron variant.

Starbucks' stock price is down about 17.8% already in 2022. The market is anticipating awful news coming out of Starbucks' Q1 report, so if it disappoints the pessimists, the stock could turn around.

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Parkev Tatevosian owns Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: short January 2022 $115 calls on Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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