Does trouble lie ahead for investors in the Golden Arches, or are shares of McDonald's just a great bargain?
For the fourth quarter, McDonald's reported that year-over-year comparable-store sales in the U.S. fell 1.3%. Although this wasn't great news, analysts had expected a 1.4% decline.
A big reason for the sales drop is that the year-earlier quarter included the introduction of the company's all-day breakfast menu, which gave U.S. restaurants an amazing 5.7% boost over the fourth quarter of 2014. McDonald's simply hasn't been able to keep up that momentum after the novelty of the menu has worn off, and year-over-year comparisons are doing more harm than good.
Revenue also fell, however, by 5% to $6.03 billion in the latest quarter from $6.34 a year earlier, a narrower decrease than analysts expected. But on a constant-currency basis, the drop wasn't just 3%.
Investors should be reassured by some bright spots in the company's earnings announcement. Globally, same-store sales rose 2.7% from a year earlier as sales in China, Japan, the U.K., and some countries in the company's Latin American segment heated up.
Actually, there are still plenty of reasons to be bullish on McDonald's stock.
The company is still in the midst of a revitalization led by Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook, who took the reins in March 2015. The company has made big moves, including the all-day breakfast, adjusting its recipes to suit a more health-conscious public, and even deciding to move its headquarters from the Chicago suburbs to one of the city's hottest restaurant districts.
Keep in mind that McDonald's is operating amid what some are calling an "restaurant recession."
A number of factors including anxiety caused by the presidential election as well as lower prices for groceries and produce in supermarkets have contributed to falling sales across the entire restaurant industry. The restaurant recession is expected to dampen same-store sales at companies including McDonald's as well as troubled Chipotle (CMG) - Get Report, popular Panera Bread (PNRA) and other fast-food rivals such as Restaurant Brands' (QSR) - Get Report Burger King.
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However, McDonald's remains a great play for long-term investors.
"Throughout 2016, we worked diligently to lay the groundwork for our long-term future," Easterbrook said in a statement on Monday. "Our efforts yielded a more streamlined and focused organization that generated solid fourth-quarter and full-year results ... I am confident that we're on the right path."
The company has decades of proof that it is a survivor and even a recession-proof company. Stock declines, such as the one Monday, are merely good opportunities to get in on this legacy stock.
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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.