Seattle-based coffee-house operator Starbucks plans to expand store numbers in the Asia-Pacific region by 54 per cent to 428 before the end of the year, according to regional president Pedro Man. Of the 200 stores Starbucks plans to build outside the United States this year, 150 are in Asia-Pacific, Mr Man said after the Nasdaq-listed company's trading debut yesterday in Hong Kong. Starbucks - the only non-technology counter among the seven Nasdaq companies that began trading shares locally yesterday - has 278 stores in the region, representing about 9 per cent of its almost 3,000 stores around the world. After opening two stores in Hong Kong earlier this month, Mr Man said the company planned to open 10 to 12 stores in the SAR in the next 12 to 18 months. He said the timing of Starbucks' local expansion and the debut of its shares was a 'pure coincidence'. 'We have been searching for the right partner for expansion in Hong Kong for four years, and Nasdaq and the Hong Kong stock exchange have been working on this pilot [listing] programme for more than two years,' Mr Man said. 'All of this is really a coincidence and I think it's a good coincidence.' Starbucks has formed a joint venture with Maxims - an unlisted restaurant operator and catering firm - to operate the coffee houses. Maxims is a key supplier to Starbucks of food items complementing its coffee and beverage range. Despite competition from early movers in the industry such as Pacific Coffee, Mr Man said sales and customer traffic at Starbucks' two locations had exceeded expectations. He said while many Asian countries did not have a strong coffee-drinking culture, the attraction of Starbucks went beyond its coffee. 'At Starbucks, we don't just offer coffee, we offer the experience - the third place between home and office,' Mr Man said. Starbucks recorded 48.7 per cent growth in net profit to US$101.69 million in the year to October 3 last year, compared with the previous corresponding period. Meanwhile, net revenues grew 29 per cent to US$1.42 billion.