Dec. 11 - Britain's Whitbread has hit record sales at its expanding Costa Coffee business, possibly helped by tax avoidance problems facing its rival Starbucks. Sonia Legg reports.
7.1 percent is today's daily digit in Europe - the record sales increase at Costa Coffee during a quarter when rival Starbucks had to deal with tax avoidance allegations. Costa served almost 4 million customers in the week Starbucks bowed to public criticism and agreed to pay 20 million pounds in corporate tax over the next two years. "Costa's been the UK's favourite coffee shop for quite some time", said the CEO of Costa's owner Whitbread, "and we remain the taxman's favourite coffee shop too." Whitbread shares have gained 50 percent over the past year - it's the top riser on the FTSE 100. Anger over Starbucks tax affairs prompted protests at the weekend. Its troubles aren't responsible for Costa's success - the company has been doing well for 18 months - but analysts do believe it's benefitted from the anti-Starbucks sentiment in recent weeks. Sales rose 6.8 percent during the first six months of the year compared to the 7 percent plus in the three months to December. The chain now has more than 1,200 UK stores and has plans for double the number of international outlets to 3,500 by 2016 .