News Column

McDonald's January Sales Down 1.9%, Worse than Expected

Feb. 10, 2013

Emily Bryson York

McDonald's

McDonald's January comparable sales fell 1.9 percent, due to weakness in the Europe and Asia, the company said Friday.

The Oak Brook-based burger giant warned during its fourth-quarter earnings release that sales at restaurants open more than one year would be down. But analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected a decline of 1.1 percent.

Shares rose nearly 1 percent in morning trading, to $95.38.

Of greatest concern to Wall Street, same store sales in Europe declined to 2.1 percent. The company cited particular weakness in Germany and France despite solid growth in the U.K and Russia. Europe is the chain's largest market.

Comparable sales fell 9.5 percent in McDonald's Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa division, for which the chain cited weakness in Japan, and declines in China, attributable to a calendar shift in the Chinese New Year, and the ongoing fallout from a poultry crisis.

In the U.S., comparable sales rose 0.9 percent. McDonald's cited popularity of its core menu and moving the grilled onion and cheddar burger onto the Dollar Menu.

Total sales rose in January 0.3 percent, or 0.7 percent adjusted for the impact of currency.

While McDonald's expects sales to improve later this year, the worst isn't over. The company said it expects a 3 percent hit to February sales as a result of a shorter month in 2013.

"While January's results reflect today's challenging environment and difficult prior year comparisons, I am confident that our unwavering commitment to delivering an exceptional restaurant experience will enhance our brand's relevance and drive long-term results," McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said in a statement.

In a Friday research note, Janney analyst David Tarantino wrote that McDonald's performance in the U.S. was ahead of expectations and the broader quick-service restaurant industry.

Though he expects comparable sales to be down through March, "we remain optimistic that planned initiatives can support better operating momentum after the first quarter," he said.

eyork@tribune.com -- Twitter: @emilyyork

Reuters contributed to this report.


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