McDonald's says January restaurant sales will fall
By Lisa Baertlein
(Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote) on Wednesday forecast a decline in global restaurant sales for January, as it and other fast-food chains fight for customers who are spending cautiously during continued economic uncertainty.
The world's biggest restaurant company by revenue also reported an unexpected rise in December sales at established U.S. outlets, which helped lift its fourth-quarter profit above analysts' estimates.
Wall Street expected the early part of 2013 to be tough for McDonald's as it runs short of quick fixes for its business in the United States, and bumps up against strong year-earlier results that were bolstered by unseasonably warm weather.
McDonald's forecast for a decline in this month's global same-restaurant sales suggests a "pretty clear drop off between December (2012) and January (2013)," Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy said.
Global same-restaurant sales were flat in December, aided by an unexpected 0.9 percent rise in the United States - its second-largest market for revenue behind Europe.
The company's push to keep more restaurants open on Christmas Day and its shift of the limited-time offering of the popular McRib sandwich to December from October bolstered the December U.S. results. Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected those sales to drop 1.78 percent.
McDonald's expects near-term top and bottom-line growth to remain pressured in part because the company must top strong results from a year ago, Chief Executive Don Thompson said on a conference call with analysts.
Last year's global sales at McDonald's restaurants open at least 13 months increased 6.7 percent for January and 7.3 percent for the first quarter. Continued...