updated 11/17/2005 7:44:34 PM ET 2005-11-18T00:44:34

Consumers’ appetite for Starbucks Corp.’s lattes and other delicacies continued to grow in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, pushing earnings up 21 percent.

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For the 13 weeks ended Oct. 2, the Seattle coffee retailer said it earned $123.7 million, or 16 cents per share, up from $102.6 million, or 12 cents per share, in the 14-week period a year earlier.

Revenue for the company’s fiscal fourth quarter increased 14 percent to $1.66 billion, up from $1.45 billion in the comparable period last year. Same store sales were up 8 percent for the quarter, the company said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 15 cents per share on revenue of $1.68 billion.

Starbucks said a number of offerings, ranging from its core coffee beverages to its popular music CDs, helped propel growth during the fiscal year.

In a conference call with analysts and journalists, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz said the company also continues to benefit from its increasing international presence. He said the company sees especially strong potential in the Chinese market, where it expects to eventually have thousands of outlets.

“This is a very complex difficult market to both enter and succeed in, but we are off to a very, very good start,” Schultz said.

Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Michael Casey said the company is currently profitable in China. But in the future, he said, “We are willing to sustain losses in order to pursue what we think is the biggest opportunity outisde of North America.”

Morningstar analyst Carl Sibilski said he was impressed by the potential for Starbucks in China, especially as a “third place” where people can escape cramped homes and workplaces.

“I would say the standout was just kind of the potential for China to be an aggressive growth market for them,” he said.

For the full year ended Oct. 2, Starbucks said it earned $494.5 million, or 61 cents per share, up from $389 million, or 47 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Revenue was $6.37 billion, up from $5.29 billion in the prior fiscal year.

The company said it opened 1,672 stores during the year, bringing its total number of retail outlets to more than 10,000 stores worldwide.

For the current fiscal year, Starbucks said it expects to earn between 63 cents and 65 cents per share, including stock option compensation expense of about 9 cents per share. Revenue is expected to grow about 20 percent.

The company also said it expects to open approximately 1,800 new stores worldwide during the year.

Ahead of the report, Starbucks shares rose 80 cents, or 2.6 percent, to close at $31.22 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, near the 52-week high of $32.13. The stock was down 17 cents in aftermarket trading.

Sibilski said the dip was likely due to slight disappointment that the company didn’t exceed expectations — a tendency that has repeatedly dogged the consistently profitable coffee retailer.

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