Another First for Starbucks

This isn't the first time I've harped about the new precedents Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) has been setting recently -- unfortunately, none very good. Now we're treated to Starbucks' first-ever quarterly loss. I think I'm going to choke on my coffee.

You might guess you're probably in for it when a company uses this kind of headline: "Starbucks Takes Significant Actions to Position the Company for 2009 and Reports Third Quarter Fiscal 2008 Results." Not exactly a return to coffee romance, but it is heartening that Starbucks kept its 2009 guidance for earnings of $0.90 per share to $1.00 per share as it works to cut costs and put the brakes on U.S. store growth.

Starbucks reported a third-quarter net loss of $6.7 million, or $0.01 per share, compared with last year's profit of $158.3 million, or $0.21 per share. Revenue increased 9% to $2.6 billion.

Unfortunately, Starbucks didn't even give a specific figure for its quarterly same-store sales in its press release (shame, shame), simply stating they decreased in the mid-single-digit range, with a slight deterioration from the previous quarter because of -- you guessed it -- slow U.S. store traffic.

These aren't joyous tidings, yet I still believe Starbucks is a value (as much as I can also admit that more bearish folks make solid points investors must weigh). However, closing stores and focusing on profitability, matched with my belief that much of the weakness seems macroeconomic (and not because the Starbucks brand is actually busted), consoles me for the long term.

For those who turn their noses up at the sweet taste of a caffeinated value stock, though, there's always Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) , which, like last quarter, appears to have beaten analysts' estimates on the top and bottom lines. It also hiked guidance. Its tendency to trade at pricy multiples has made me nervous for quite some time, but one must admit it's been firing on all cylinders. Green Mountain's quarterly earnings rose by 70%, and its sales increased by 43%. Talk about magic beans.

After market close today, we'll see how another caffeinated company, Peet's (Nasdaq: PEET  ) , fared in its most recent quarter, another interesting comparison. However, I'm still of the opinion that as much as the current times are troubling, over the long haul Starbucks will be solid. And these troubled times have produced prices for the shares that even value investors can love.

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Starbucks has been recommended by both Motley Fool Inside Value and Stock Advisor. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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