Starbucks restated its fourth-quarter results Wednesday after an arbitrator ordered the coffee giant to pay $2.2 billion in damages and another $527 million in interest and attorneys fees to former packaged-coffee distribution partner Kraft Foods Global Inc.

The impact of the award, which was applied to the Sept. 29-ended fourth quarter, resulted in an operating loss of $1.2 million, or a loss of $1.64 per share. Previously, Starbucks had reported a record fourth quarter with profit rising 34 percent to $481.1 million, or 63 cents per share, capping off what the company called the best year in its 42-year history.

In a call with analysts Wednesday, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ chair, president and chief executive, said he strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s conclusion. But he said the company’s move to take control of the consumer packaged goods, or CPG, division has changed the trajectory of the business for the better.

“It’s difficult when a decision like this goes against you,” said Schultz. “But it’s a one-time charge in a single moment of time. We are moving forward and not in the least looking back.”

The arbitration settlement ended a three-year dispute between Seattle-based Starbucks and Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft over their packaged-coffee contract. Starbucks broke off its 12-year distribution agreement with Kraft in 2011 because executives were dissatisfied with progress of the bagged-coffee business for both Starbucks and sister brand Seattle’s Best Coffee. Kraft rejected Starbucks’ attempts to end the contract, saying the coffeehouse company had to pay a fair market value, plus a premium, to compensate for the business lost.

Since the break-up, however, Starbucks has been able to significantly grow its CPG division, which it calls channel development, with the move into premium, single-serve K-Cups a cornerstone of that growth.

The company’s packaged coffee and single-serve offerings have cumulatively grown by $3.2 billion in revenue over the past two years, said Troy Alstead, Starbucks chief financial officer. During the fourth quarter, revenue from channel development grew 13 percent over the prior year to $360.9 million and has become Starbucks’ second-largest operating segment.

Channel development also has much room for expansion as Starbucks-branded retail products move into new countries. Currently Starbucks has CPG products in 29 markets, though the coffeehouse chain operates in 60 countries. China, in particular, offers opportunity for expansion, Schultz said.

Earlier this year, the company shifted former channel development head Jeff Hansberry to the position of president of Starbucks China, Asia Pacific, where he has been tasked with building retail and CPG operations there.

Alstead said Starbucks has adequate liquidity to fund the Kraft payment, and the impact will not change earnings targets for 2014 of $2.55 to $2.65 per share, as stated earlier. The company plans to issue $750 million in additional debt to help fund the award payment.

Kraft Foods reportedly split into two companies in 2012: Kraft Foods Group Inc. and Mondelez International Inc. The award from Starbucks will go to Mondelez.

Kraft, meanwhile, in October announced a collaboration with McDonald’s — Starbucks’ biggest competitor — to test the sale of new McCafe-branded bagged coffee and single-cup offerings in grocery stores, starting in 2014.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
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