Starbucks Coffee International announced the openings of four key stores in Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In Hong Kong, the first Starbucks store, located at Exchange Square, Central, opened its doors today while the second store at Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, opens on May 3. The first Starbucks store in Shanghai, located in the prestigious shopping district in Luwan, will open on May 4.

Howard Schultz, who will assume the new role of chairman and chief global strategist of Starbucks Coffee Company (Nasdaq:SBUX - news) effective June 1, attended the opening of the Starbucks flagship store at the Myundong district in Seoul, South Korea, on May 1, before arriving in Hong Kong. The new five-story high store is also Seoul's fourth Starbucks store following the opening of the first store on July 27, 1999.

Schultz, who is currently the chairman and ceo of Starbucks Coffee Company, will also be in Shanghai for the market's first Starbucks store opening on May 4. Starbucks Coffee International and Shanghai President Coffee Co., Ltd. signed a licensing agreement to open retail locations in Shanghai in March this year. Shanghai President Coffee Co., Ltd. is a cooperative joint venture formed by Luwan Tobacco, Sugar & Wine Co., Ltd. and President Coffee (Cayman) Holdings Ltd.

"The series of store openings reflect the momentum of our strategic growth in the region," said Schultz. "I am extremely excited by our success in the international marketplace which has come earlier than expected. We must seize the moment following the phenomenal reception Starbucks has received in all the international markets we have entered.

"I have never been more enthusiastic about the tremendous growth opportunities for Starbucks worldwide," added Schultz. "We are still in the very early days of our growth cycle and will continue to grow our business rapidly and strategically as we continue to move towards achieving our long term goal of building an enduring, global brand."

Since opening its first store in Tokyo, Japan, in the summer of 1996, Starbucks Coffee International has opened more than 350 stores in the Pacific Rim, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. The goal of the company, with retail locations in 14 international markets, is to have 500 stores in the Pacific Rim and 500 stores in Europe by the end of fiscal year 2003.

"Every store opening is extremely meaningful as we are able to bring the Starbucks Experience to different cultures," said Peter Maslen, president of Starbucks Coffee International. "In Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai, we have terrific partners who share our commitment to people, quality coffee and excellent customer service."

Hong Kong represents Starbucks Coffee International's 15th international market. To further strengthen its presence in the Pacific Rim, Starbucks recently opened a regional office in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is ready for the Starbucks Experience," said Michael Wu, managing director of Maxim's Caterers Limited (Hong Kong). "Starbucks will be an instant hit with the coffee lovers in Hong Kong as the brand is already widely known, highly respected and has a global appeal. The existing vibrant and lively coffee culture in the city will be greatly invigorated by Starbucks unique coffee experience."