UPDATE 3-Starbucks' business may have bottomed in Q4-CEO

jueves 30 de octubre de 2008 03:53 CET

(Adds comments from Starbucks press release)

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS Oct 29 (Reuters) - Coffee chain Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O: Cotización) may have weathered the worst of a sales slowdown as growth improved somewhat this month, its top executive said on Wednesday, and its share rose 8 percent.

"The downturn continued in the fourth quarter, and we did see a slight improvement in the first weeks of Q1 ... which might suggest that Starbucks may have hit bottom in terms of negative transactions in our fourth quarter," Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz told reporters at a company leadership conference in New Orleans.

Starbucks is due to report earnings for its fourth quarter, that ended September, on Nov. 10.

The company issued a press release Wednesday evening adding that the company had expected fourth quarter comparable store sales to be "relatively stable with third-quarter trends."

It added that Starbucks experienced further deterioration in the fourth quarter but in October, comparable store sales had improved slightly on higher average value per transaction.

Schultz said fourth-quarter customer visits and closely watched sales at established stores remained below last year's levels. But he was careful to say that improvements in the first week of the current quarter do not yet make a trend.

Schultz returned as CEO in January to lead a turnaround at the company that is grappling with increasing competition from the likes of McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Cotización) at the same time as it recovers from a U.S. store building binge.   Continuación...