McDonald's continues to outperform

The burger chain's comparable global sales blew away analyst expectations for November.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 8, 2011 12:28PM
Forget Ronald McDonald. A better mascot for McDonald's (MCD) may be the Energizer Bunny, because the burger chain keeps going and going.

The Home of the Golden Arches reported that global same-store sales increased 7.4% in November, surpassing the 4.6% gain Wall Street analysts expected. Sales in Europe and the U.S. rose 6.5% each, beating analysts' expectations. Not surprisingly, shares of the Oakbrook, Ill. company, which have risen more than 25% this year, rose 1.4% to $97.75 Thursday morning.

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McDonald's was ideally suited to profit from the economic downturn thanks to its dollar menu, which enables budget-conscious consumers to dine more outside the home. As the economy improves, so will the burger chain's chances to profit from premium-priced products such as lattes and mochas. The company is able to make money in places where many businesses struggle.

McDonald's cited strong performance in U.K., France, Russia and Germany as reasons for its strong performance in Europe, where it gets about 40% of revenue. That may be tough to maintain. Growth in the U.K. slowed in the three months ended in November. France, where joblessness is at a 12-year high, is experiencing similar problems. The German economy, Europe's largest, will likely contract over the next few months if Europe's debt crisis isn't resolved. Russian officials are forecasting growth of 4.2% this year.

But even if McDonald's European business slacks off, the U.S. and emerging economies may be able to make up the difference. Though it remains weak, the U.S. economy is gaining strength. Strong performance in China and Japan pushed up comparable sales in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa by 8.1% in November.

Wall Street expects the good times to continue.  The average target price of Wall Street analysts is $101.38, ahead of the $98.18 level where it recently traded. Its price-to-earnings ratio on a trailing basis is 18.9, under the S&P 500 average of 20.92, indicating that the shares are reasonably valued.

--Jonathan Berr owns a small position in McDonald's.

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