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Starbucks Gets Frothy In Asia As Europe Goes Flat

Starbucks, which has been criticised for not paying enough corporation tax in the UK, has reported better than expected sales in the US and increasing growth in Asia.

The coffee chain saw net earnings, which is one way of measuring profits, hit $432.2m (£268m) in the three months to the end of December - up 14% on a year earlier.

Customers in the US, its top market, spent more than expected during the economically turbulent winter holiday season.

Overall revenue jumped almost 11% to $3.8bn (£2.48bn) during the quarter, which is the best sales period for Starbucks.

It also reported stronger-than-expected sales in Asia despite economic uncertainty worldwide, offsetting unexpected costs including the bill for cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy.

Sales at established shops were up 11% in the China/Asia Pacific region.

Global sales at stores open at least 13 months were up 6%, however, Starbucks' Americas business contributed 75% of total revenue for the fiscal year that ended September 30.

Starbucks also said it sold more than 150,000 of its domestic coffee machines, most of them through specialty retailers.

Executives said the machine will continue to be a major revenue driver in the coming months and years.

However, the chain's bosses joined industry peers in adopting a cautious stance for the new year, largely because of concerns that this month's US payroll tax increase could depress consumer spending.

The US and Asian boost comes as sales were down by 1% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Last November, Starbucks in Britain found itself in the middle of a tax avoidance row and a number of customers started to boycott the brand over its transfer pricing to other units abroad.

The angry backlash was prompted by the revelation that Starbucks paid only £8.6m UK corporation tax in the past 13 years, despite sales of £3.1bn in the country, as a top executive was grilled by MPs over so-called tranfer pricing.

It has since said it expects to pay around £10m in UK corporation tax for each of the next two years - but critics slammed it as a donation and HM Revenue and Customs reacted negatively to the gesture.