Dueling Fools: Starbucks Bull Rebuttal

Larry's right. Net income growth has slowed. I'd be more worried if we hadn't seen this pattern before. Compare bottom-line growth from the past five years ...

Net income

TTM

2006

2005

2004

2003

Year-over-year growth

10.6%

14.1%

27.1%

46.6%

25.5%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

With the five years prior:

Net income

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

Year-over-year growth

17.2%

90.7%

(7.0%)

48.7%

23.8%

Source: Capital IQ.

Yes, I know, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) was a different company in 1998 from what it is now. All I'm saying is that, just because growth has slowed recently, you shouldn't conclude that Starbucks' best days are long past. History strongly suggests that we're in the midst of a cycle.

And let's not forget Starbucks' unusual propensity to create free cash flow. Even in 2000, when bottom-line growth stalled completely, free cash flow went positive for the first time in the company's history as a public entity.

Larry's concern is understandable. But I wonder whether, instead of witnessing the beginning of the end, as he suggests, we're witnessing the beginning of a beginning -- of a new phase of growth? Meet me in Vienna for a decaf cinnamon dolce latte, and we'll talk it over.

Wait! You're not done with this duel. Go back and read the other arguments, and then vote for a winner.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Find Tim's portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a recovering java junkie.


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