Why This Starbucks Analyst Is Surprised By New CEO Choice — And Optimistic

Zinger Key Points
  • Starbucks chose to tap external talent from outside the consumer discretionary sector for its next CEO.
  • Cowen expects margin guidance to be the focus of the upcoming investor day.
Why This Starbucks Analyst Is Surprised By New CEO Choice — And Optimistic

Starbucks Corporation SBUX announced late Thursday the appointment of Reckitt Benckiser Group plc RBGLY top brass Laxman Narasimhan as its next chief executive officer effective April 1, 2023.

He will join the company as the incoming CEO on Oct. 1.

The Starbucks Analyst: Cowen analyst Andrew Charles maintained an Outperform rating and $104 price target for Starbucks shares.

The Starbucks Takeaways: Starbucks’ decision to choose a CEO from outside the consumer discretionary sector was surprising, Charles said in a note.

The analyst is optimistic that Narasimhan’s global perspectives as CEO of a public multinational corporation and his nearly half-decade experience in beverages at PepsiCo. PEP will serve the coffee retailer well.

Reckitt generated about 8% of its 2021 revenue from China, the analyst said. This experience could help Starbucks, which derives about 15% of its normalized operating profits from greater China, he said. 

See also: Starbucks Looks To Fill CEO Howard Schultz's Shoes With An Outsider: WSJ

Charles also noted that PepsiCo is Starbucks’ ready-to-drink bottling and distribution partner for Frapuccinos, cold brew and espresso beverages.

With a new CEO chosen, the analyst predicted that margin guidance will be the key investor focus of the biennial investor day on Sept. 13. He sees 16%-17% as the new optimal long-term guidance range vs. the previous guidance of 18%-19%.

Due to the increase in labor and training-related investment, the analyst predicts that North American store operating expenses will likely serve as a drag on margin.

Re-franchising company-owned stores outside the U.S. and China is an option to improve operating margin and return on invested capital if additional labor investments are necessary to accomplish targets, Charles said. 

SBUX Price Action: Starbucks shares were trading down 2.37% at $83.38 Friday afternoon, according to Benzinga Pro data.

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