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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bloomberg.com: U.S.

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Starbucks Corp., the world's largest chain of coffee shops, will cut another 1,000 jobs and eliminate the chief operating officer position as the company seeks to reverse slumping sales.

Operating chief Martin Coles will take over as president of Starbucks Coffee International, the Seattle-based company said today in a statement. Jim Alling, the previous international chief, is leaving the company.

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, 55, resumed the position of chief executive officer in January to revitalize the chain's cafes after U.S. customer visits declined. Earlier this month, he announced plans to close 600 stores in the U.S. and eliminate as many as 12,000 positions, or 7 percent of the workforce.

``They're just streamlining a lot of their overhead business units at this point,'' said Sharon Zackfia, an analyst at William Blair & Co. in Chicago. She recommends investors buy the shares.

About 550 of the latest jobs being eliminated are non- store positions, spokeswoman Bridget Baker said. The company employed about 172,000 as of last September

Starbucks climbed 76 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $14.99 at 4 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The shares have dropped 18 percent since Schultz took over again.

Australia Cuts

Earlier today, the coffee-shop chain said it will shut three-fourths of its 84 stores in Australia within the next five days, backing away from a market it entered eight years ago.

Starbucks probably will concentrate more of its growth in China and Japan, Zackfia said. Mexico and South America have also been ``very good markets,'' she said.

``They've just started to scratch the surface in Brazil, which has a lot of people, and a lot of people drinking coffee,'' Zackfia said.

Schultz has called the company's problems ``self- induced,'' and vowed to introduce more innovative products and clean up aging stores. Since January, Starbucks has introduced a milder blend of coffee, new drinks and consumer-loyalty cards, and is tinkering with breakfast-sandwich recipes so their smell doesn't overwhelm coffee aromas.

Management Appointments

Starbucks also named Michelle Gass to oversee marketing, food and beverage; Dorothy Kim to run global strategy; and Peter Gibbons to head the company's supply-chain operations. Vivek Varma will manage communications.

Starbucks opened its first store in 1971 in Seattle's Pike Place Market as a place to sell beans and coffee-making equipment. The company was named for the coffee-drinking first mate in the novel ``Moby Dick.''

Starbucks reports third-quarter financial results tomorrow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lauren Coleman-Lochner in New York at llochner@bloomberg.net.

Vonage names former AT&T executive as new CEO

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - Struggling with tough competition, Internet telephony provider Vonage Holdings Corp. has turned to a former marketing executive from AT&T Inc. to polish up the company's image as its new CEO.

The Holmdel-based company said Tuesday that its board of directors has selected Marc Lefar as the company's new chief executive.

He replaces company founder Jeffrey Citron, who has served as interim CEO since April 2007, when Michael Snyder stepped down as the company's legal challenges and financial losses mounted.

Lefar served as chief marketing officer of Cingular Wireless, now AT&T Mobility, for more than four years, and later founded a technology and media consultancy called Marketing Insights.

Vonage is one of the leading providers of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, services, which allows people to make cheap or free calls over a broadband Internet connection. With 2.6 million customers, Vonage is the leading independent Internet phone service, but its once rapid growth has lost steam as cable companies like Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc., have rolled out competing services.

Due to high marketing costs and patent-infringement lawsuits from phone companies, Vonage has lost more than $967 million over the past five years.

Lefar said in a statement that he will focus on improving the customer experience, and that "meaningful, intuitive features will accelerate growth and improve loyalty."

Vonage shares gained 3 cents to $1.45 in after-hours trading Tuesday. They had closed the regular trading session down 4 cents, or 2.7 percent, at $1.42. News of the appointment of a permanent CEO leaked last week. Top of page