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McDonalds Misses Q4 Earnings Forecast, But US Comp Sales Solid

Soft international sales, and a 14 cent charge linked to the sale of stock in McDonalds Japan, clipped fourth quarter earnings for the world's biggest restaurant chain over the final three months of the year.

McDonalds Corp.  (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report posted weaker-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Thursday as softer international sales offset solid improvements in U.S. store traffic. 

McDonalds said diluted earnings for the three months ending in December were pegged at $1.84 per share, down 6.6% from the same period last year but 6 cents ahead of the Street consensus forecast. Stripping away a 14 cents per share benefit linked to the group's operations in Japan, the headline earnings figure was $1.70 per share. Group revenues, McDonalds said, fell 5.5% to $5.31 billion, just shy of analysts' estimates of a $5.37 billion tally.

McDonalds said same-store sales fell 1.3% for the period on a global basis, thanks in part to coronavirus-related lockdowns in key European markets, while U.S. sales jumped by a better-than-expected 5.5%. The group added in its investor conference call that January same-store sales have continued to increase, and forecast 'low double digit' growth for global system-wide sales in 2021.

 "2020 will be remembered as one of McDonald's most challenging, yet inspiring, moments in our long history. The resilience of the McDonald's System was on display – making safety and service a priority, putting our customers and people first, and running great restaurants," said CEO Chris Kempczinski. 

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"Against an uncertain backdrop, we are committed to staying true to our values and our brand purpose to feed and foster communities," he added. "By investing for the future and leveraging competitive strengths within our Accelerating the Arches strategy in drive-thru, delivery, and our growing digital presence, we're confident we can continue to capture market share and drive long-term sustainable growth for all stakeholders."  

McDonalds shares were marked 1% higher in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $209.00 each, extending their six-month gain to around 6.5%.