July 9, 2018 / 4:04 AM / a month ago

Starbucks' Schultz urges investor support despite China concerns

SHANGHAI, July 9 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp's outgoing Executive Chairman Howard Schultz said on Monday that a recent slowdown in China would be short-lived, seeking to salve investor concerns that the U.S. coffee chain is under pressure in the fast-growing market.

Starbucks said last month China same-store sales would be flat to slightly negative in its second-biggest market in April-June, versus 7 percent growth a year earlier, triggering a sharp drop in the chain's share price.

Schultz said fears of a slowdown were overblown and that "over time" the closely watched metric would be "positive and be consistent with what we've had in the past".

"It's a very short-term number that Wall Street uses, it's not a number we're concerned about," he said at a roundtable at the firm's flagship Roastery store in Shanghai.

"I will say, unequivocally, that anyone who is betting against Starbucks in China is dead wrong."

China has been a sweet spot for Starbucks for the past few years, with a burgeoning cafe culture driving rapid growth even as the market saturated back home. Schultz sees China as overtaking the United States as Starbucks' top market, with the firm aiming to double cafe numbers there to 6,000 by 2022.

Schultz, who announced his departure from Starbucks in June, added the current trade tensions between the United States and China were creating an negative atmosphere between the two countries, though he downplayed the impact on the chain.

"I think we will be able to navigate through this fairly well. Having said that I don't think it's a healthy atmosphere between the two countries and I hope it's short-lived." (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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