Industry News | July 27, 2017 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

Starbucks Announces Largest Acquisition in Company History

Starbucks is unifying its full company-operated structure in China. Starbucks
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Starbucks is set to report third-quarter earnings after the bell Thursday. That didn’t stop the java giant from giving investors some blockbuster news to chew on with their morning coffee.

In the largest single acquisition in company history, Starbucks announced it was spending roughly $1.3 billion in cash consideration to acquire the remaining 50 percent share of its East China business from long-term joint venture partners Uni-President Enterprises (UPEC) and President Chain Store Corporation (PCSC). The deal will hand the company 100 percent ownership of the 1,300 or so Starbucks in the Shanghai and Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces.

“Unifying the Starbucks business under a full company-operated structure in China, reinforces our commitment to the market and is a firm demonstration of our confidence in the current local leadership team as we aim to grow from 2,800 to more than 5,000 stores by 2021,” says Kevin Johnson, president and CEO, Starbucks Coffee Company, in a statement.

China is Starbucks’ fastest-growing market outside of the U.S. in terms of store count. In a separate deal, UPEC and PCSC agreed to purchase Starbucks’ 50 percent interest in President Starbucks Coffee Taiwan Limited (Taiwan JV) and assume 100 percent ownership of company operations in Taiwan for around $175 million. The 20-year-old company currently operates 410 Starbucks stores in Taiwan.

“Similar to our decision in 2011 to fully license our Hong Kong and Macau market operations, we are pleased to transition our business in the Taiwan market to our long-time partners Uni-President Enterprises Corporation and President Chain Store Corporation, both highly recognized local operators, as we continue to grow in Taiwan. This is a critical next-step as we advance our multifaceted China growth strategy for long-term profitable growth in Asia,” Johnson says.

Shanghai, which is slated to become the first city outside of the U.S. to house a premium Starbucks Reserve Roastery in December, has nearly 600 Starbucks, making it the largest count in any city globally.

“This is the beginning of yet another exciting new chapter for Starbucks in China. Full ownership will give us the opportunity to fully leverage our robust business infrastructure to deliver an elevated coffee, in-store third place experience and digital innovation to our customers, and further strengthen the career development opportunities for our people,” says Belinda Wong, CEO, Starbucks China, in a statement. “Our East China partners’ relentless pursuit of operational excellence and leadership has provided us a solid foundation to maximize the unprecedented growth opportunities ahead and we look forward to extending our world-class network of unique programs to support their personal and professional dreams.”

Adds Alex Lo, chairman, Uni-President Enterprises Corporation: “We’ve had a strong friendship with Starbucks for nearly 20 years, starting with the opening of the first store in Taiwan and then further extending our partnership with the opening of the first store in East China. We are confident that our new ownership model and continued collaboration with Starbucks will enable us to be even more focused on delivering an elevated Starbucks Experience to our customers in the Taiwan market.”

All eyes will be on Starbucks this afternoon when it releases its third-quarter earnings review and follows up with a conference call at 5 p.m. (eastern).

In April, the chain reported comparable store sales increases of 3 percent in the U.S. in the second quarter, which missed Wall Street estimates of 3.7 percent. The revenue of $5.3 billion was also short of the $5.42 billion forecast. Starbucks has struggled a bit in recent quarters with traffic in the U.S. and its sagging Teavana mall store locations.

Starbucks’ 2012 acquisition of Teavana for $620 million represented the largest in the company’s history at the time.

The second-quarter review was Johnson’s first since taking the reins from Howard Schultz, who is now serving as executive chairman.