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Starbucks (SBUX), which exhibited weak sales in the US for last few quarters, posted consolidated net revenues of $6.3 billion, up 11% for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018. The coffee giant announced results after markets closed on Thursday, Nov 1, posting a global comparable store sales rise of 3%.

The stock, which closed at $58.63 on Thursday shot up as high as $63.79 — up 8.8% in after-market trade — after the coffee chain announced its results.

Even though operating income went below a billion dollars — falling 6% to $956.6 million with an operating margin of 15.2% — earnings improved 4% to $0.56 a share for the quarter. Starbucks added 604 net new store this quarter, one more than a year ago.

The coffee chain repurchased 58.5 million shares of common stock in the quarter, along with announcing its intention to fully license Starbucks operations in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg to its longstanding strategic partner Alsea, S.A.B. de C.V., the largest independent chain restaurant operator in Latin America.

Back in September, Starbucks also celebrated its expansion into Italy with the opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan.

A Renewed Focus on the East

Net revenues for the Americas segment grew 8% in the quarter to $4.3 billion as incremental revenues from 895 net new store openings over the past 12 months and 4% growth in comparable store sales added on. The top line was partially offset by the absence of revenue related to the sale of its Brazil retail operations to a licensed partner back in the second quarter this fiscal year.

With stress on China, CEO Kevin Johnson announced, “as we enter fiscal 2019, we are executing against a clear growth agenda, with a focus on our long-term growth markets of the US and China.”

For China/Asia Pacific segment, Net revenues soared 41% to $1.21 billion, as effects of the ownership change in East China at the end the first quarter added on, along with incremental revenues from 756 net new store openings over the past 12 months and a 1% rise in comparable store sales.

The $900-million Bet!

Earlier this month, activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital revealed that his fund had 15.2 million shares of Starbucks (SBUX). At the time, it was worth about $900 million.

With this reveal, Starbucks joins Pershing’s other food and beverage holdings – Chipotle Mexican Grill, Restaurant Brands International (parent of Burger King and Tim Horton’s) and Mondelez.

In his presentation at the Grant’s Interest Rate Observer conference, Ackman also touted China as the company’s single largest growth opportunity, noting that Starbucks’ current two-year share repurchase plan represents 20% of its market value.

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