Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz calls the stock ‘cheap,’ but some say it’s cheap for a reason

Investing

Starbucks shares have fallen 11 percent this year as the coffee giant has grappled with weakened same-store sales and flat traffic in recent quarters, but outgoing executive chairman Howard Schultz said last week the stock is inexpensive.

Some market watchers are less than optimistic, at least in the near term.

Schultz told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in an email Friday: “The stock … is cheap and undervalued.”

The comments came on the final day of the stock’s worst one-week performance in six years, prompted by an announcement the chain would shutter 150 locations in 2019 (higher than the usual rate of 50 closures per year) as well as a downgrade from Morgan Stanley that cited slowing growth in the U.S. and China.

“I think there’s definitely more if you peel back this onion, because it’s more than just the store closures,” Chantico Global CEO Gina Sanchez said Friday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “Theoretically, store closures should actually be net positive over time. However, you also have the issue of rising labor costs. That’s another piece of the story.”

To be sure, the stock’s valuation is higher than the broader market by traditional measures. Its forward 12-month price-earnings ratio is 19.5 versus the S&P 500’s 16.6, according to FactSet data. Analysts covering Starbucks have an average overweight rating and $61.87 per share target, implying upside of a little more than 20 percent.

“When companies go through these restructurings, and they’re closing down stores, a lot of times, most times, investors have to realize they bleed out the truth one drop at a time,” Bear Traps Report editor Larry McDonald said Friday on “Trading Nation.” He said he sees a drop of 10 to 20 percent from current levels amid slowing growth.

International growth isn’t the only concern contributing to cautious outlooks on the company. Some Wall Street analysts say stagnant beverage innovation is among their concerns.

Starbucks shares were trading 1.7 percent lower on Monday.

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