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McDonald's: U.S. Sales Fall

Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:48am

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) — McDonald's Corp., the world's largest fast-food chain, said Tuesday that a key U.S. sales figure fell in November, only the fourth time the monthly measurement failed to rise in more than 6 1/2 years.

But the company continued to experience some growth overseas, and overall sales edged up 0.7 percent during the month. A softening dollar has helped companies such as McDonald's that have a large international presence because overseas revenue translates into more dollars.

The chain has long been a bellwether of the industry and consumers have sought out its Dollar Menu items and other food products during the recession as they look to save money when dining out.

But the performance seemed to rattle investors, as its shares fell $1.48, or 2.4 percent, to $60.43 in premarket trading.

The Oak Brook, Ill., company said sales at U.S. restaurants open at least 13 months dipped 0.6 percent in November. It was the second consecutive monthly drop of the sales figure and a bigger decline than October, when the measurement slipped 0.1 percent partly on strong year-ago comparisons.

Sales at stores open at least a year are considered a key indicator of a restaurant operator's performance since they measure growth at existing restaurants rather than newly opened ones.

McDonald's domestic results have come under pressure of late in part because of high unemployment in the U.S., which keeps customers away during its breakfast and lunch hours.

But CEO Jim Skinner said in a statement that the company continues to concentrate on growing market share through attractive pricing that will appeal to its budget-conscious customers.

The chain's overseas performance was mixed, with European sales rising 2.5 percent on strong showings in the U.K. and France. Sales for the Middle East, Africa and Asia/Pacific dropped 1 percent, up against a strong 13.2 percent increase in the prior-year period. McDonald's said business in Australia remained solid, but was offset by Japan and ongoing soft results in China.

For the year to date, sales at U.S. restaurants open at least 13 months climbed 2.8 percent. European sales gained 5.2 percent, while sales for the Middle East, Africa and Asia/Pacific rose 3.6 percent. Overall sales increased 3.9 percent.

McDonald's expects to record a gain of about $85 million, or 8 cents per share, in the fourth quarter related to the resolution of a Latin American licensing deal.

The company runs more than 32,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries.

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