Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) on Wednesday reported profit rose 44 percent in the latest quarter and raised its full-year profit target by 4 cents per share amid strong U.S. sales gains and improving international performance.

The world's largest coffee shop chain also said it would accelerate new store openings in 2005 and projected 2005 profit above Wall Street estimates, noting sales at existing cafes could stay above its long-term goal for another year.

Starbucks has taken several steps to speed customers through long store lines in recent years and has found steady demand for its array of flavored drinks, including iced summer specials featuring chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Seattle-based Starbucks noted prices for milk and green coffee beans had risen during the quarter, but said supply chain improvements had helped offset the increases.

Starbucks plans to open 1,500 stores in fiscal 2005, up from a target of 1,300 in the year ending October 3, and projected sales at stores open more than a year could top its projected range of 3 percent to 7 percent in 2005.

Starbucks also boosted its full year 2004 profit target to between 94 cents and 95 cents per share from 90 to 91 cents previously and projected 2005 earnings of $1.12 to $1.15 per share, above the Wall Street consensus forecast of $1.08, according to Reuters research.

The company's profit of $98 million, or 24 cents per share, in its fiscal third quarter ended June 27, was up from $68.4 million, or 17 cents per share, a year ago and beat the consensus forecast of 22 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Consolidated net revenue rose 27 percent to $1.3 billion from $1 billion.

Before the earnings report, Starbucks shares closed at $45.64 on Nasdaq. In after-hours dealings, the stock was up to $45.95.