McDonald’s February Sales Threaten First-Quarter Margins

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In a near repeat of January’s results, February same-store sales for McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) U.S. stores fell and the company’s global sales were rescued by sales in Europe. U.S. same-store sales in February fell 1.4%, while sales in Europe rose 0.6% and sales in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) fell 2.6%. Overall global same-store sales were down 0.3% in February, compared with sales in February 2013.

That is much worse than the January performance, where global same-store sales were up 1.2%, even though U.S. sales were down 3.3%. Europe and APMEA both grew sales in January by 2% and 5.4%, respectively, to offset the big decline in the United States.

U.S. sales were down due to “challenging industry dynamics and severe winter weather.” APMEA sales fell as a result of weaker sales in Japan, the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday and negative performance in Australia. The United Kingdom and France offset weaker sales in Germany to post a slight gain in European sales.

The company’s CFO noted that year-to-date performance “will pressure margins in the first quarter.” That is not good news for shareholders.

What is even worse news is that the company’s priorities do not appear to be having a significant positive impact on sales. In the fourth quarter of 2013, same-store sales fell 0.1% and consolidated net income was flat. U.S. same-store sales fell 1.4% while rising 1% in Europe and falling by 2.4% in Asia. That is just about where the stores are at the end of February, and that is why the CFO is hinting that profits appear to be headed to finish no better than flat in the first quarter of this year.

McDonald’s shares were down about 0.2% in premarket trading Monday, at $95.25 in a 52-week range of $92.22 to $103.70.