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Starbucks pouring on the heat in China, greater Asia

NEW YORK -- Starbucks is maintaining its focus on the Chinese market and the rest of Asia, with the region accounting for half of the 1,800 or so new locations the coffee chain is opening in fiscal 2016.

     "We are taking a long-term view on how we will build our business in China," CEO Howard Schultz said Thursday, stressing that the company will continue pursuing the market despite the recent economic slowdown.

     Schultz also expressed confidence that China will transform into a consumer-driven economy. Beijing's "goal of doubling 2010 per capita income by 2021, resulting in a middle class in China approaching 600 million Chinese people, or almost twice the size of the entire current U.S. population, is attainable," he said.

     The coffee giant aims to grow 80% in the Asia-Pacific region to about 10,000 locations by 2019. This includes boosting the Chinese store count from about 2,000 to 3,400. Starbucks hopes to satisfy the region's growing middle class and its newfound taste for coffee by expanding aggressively.

     Starbucks boasts more than 23,500 stores worldwide. In addition to China, it will ramp up business in India and Southeast Asia. It entered Cambodia late last year.

     The chain will build up digital services, such as taking orders and payments via smartphone, to lock in younger Asian customers. It also plans to offer more bottled and canned beverages, as well as gift cards.

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