Green Mountain Coffee's new Vue

@CNNMoneyInvest February 16, 2012: 4:51 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has unveiled a new brewing system to build on the popularity of its K-cup line, which may face competition after two key patents expire in September.

Company executives say the new Vue machine is aiming to take advantage of a more affluent demographic.

"We're not trying to take existing customers and switch them from K-cup system to a new system," Green Mountain CEO Larry Blanford told CNNMoney in an interview following a media presentation of the new machine.

The Vue will sell for $249, when it debuts on Bed Bath and Beyond's (BBBY, Fortune 500) store shelves in a few weeks. Refill cups will cost about 11% more than Green Mountain's K-cups.

While the new coffee makers look and function a lot like the original K-cup machine, they come with more bells and whistles. The biggest addition: the option to specify the temperature, size and strength of the company's signature single servings.

The company didn't reveal any sales projections for the new system, and Blanford said Green Mountain will not separately detail the revenue and profits generated by the Vue system in its quarterly results.

"We're providing significant transparency, but to break out it any more finely, we would have some competitive concerns," he said.

Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR)'s stock has been on tear over the past five years, handing investors outrageous returns of 110%, on an annualized basis.

Shares plunged 60% last October after David Einhorn, the founder of hedge fund Greenlight Capital known for his prescient call on the impending fall of Lehman Brothers, questioned the company's accounting practices. Weeks after Einhorn's presentation, Green Mountain Coffee reported a rare earnings miss.

Blanford declined to comment on Einhorn's allegations.

The stock rebounded this year and is now down about 27% from September 2011 highs. Green Mountain's most recent quarterly results beat analysts' estimates by a wide margin and showed that the company doubled its revenues over the previous quarter.

Still, roughly 12% of Green Mountain's investors are short sellers, who bet the stock price will fall, according to Data Explorers. That's roughly four times the average short position.

Short sellers make their money by borrowing and selling stock at current market value, only to buy it back later when the stock has declined, and pocketing the difference.

Fortune's Fastest Growing Companies #2: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Green Mountain has always been candid about its business model. It barely turns a profit on its $179 coffee machines, but earns high margins on each K-cup of coffee it sells for about 70 cents each.

Green Mountain has inked partnership with Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) and Dunkin Donuts (DNKN), which sell branded K-cups. The company won't share its profit margins on those cups. Analysts estimate that the company cuts its profits by a third on its licensing deals.

Investors remained concerned about whether competitors will emerge with new options to refill Keurig's original machine. Blanford said his company has and will continue to litigate against other companies that try to sell coffee for use in its machines.

"I don't believe we'll have a lot of new competitors, but we certainly will defend it and someone would have to find a way through the other intellectual property we have" said Blanford.

Meanwhile short sellers continue to hunt for signs of potential accounting improprieties at Green Mountain.

Most recently, a blogger discovered that the company's chief financial officer had an expired certified public accountant license, but listed herself as a CPA on public documents and SEC filings. Green Mountain quickly updated its website to show that her CPA license is inactive.

Blanford calls that a non-issue. "My personal feeling is this is much ado about nothing. I think it was inadvertently put up on the site and has been taken down," he said.

David Sherman, a professor of accounting at Northeastern University, agrees, saying that only CPAs at auditing firms that sign opinions on financial filings are required to maintain an active license.

The bigger issue for investors will be trying to find out where Green Mountain earns its profits. To top of page

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