McDonald's 4Q Profits Flatline as Sales Stall

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) reported flat fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday that barely topped expectations as the fast-food king grappled with worse-than-feared sales.

Shares of the world’s largest hamburger chain ticked lower following the mixed results.

McDonald’s said it earned $1.4 billion, or $1.40 a share, last quarter, compared with $1.4 billion, or $1.38 a share, a year earlier. Analysts had called for EPS of $1.39.

Revenue ticked up 2% to $7.09 billion, narrowly trailing the Street’s view of $7.11 billion. Global same-store sales dipped 0.1% due to negative guest counts, compared with projections for flat sales.

“While 2013 was a challenging year, we begin 2014 with a renewed focus on the global growth priorities that are most impactful to our customers,” McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said in a statement. “We are uniting consumer insights with innovation and consistent execution to optimize our menu, modernize the customer experience and broaden accessibility to Brand McDonald's."

In the U.S., comparable sales dropped 1.4% in the fourth quarter, while Europe saw a 1% increase in same-store sales thanks to strength in the U.K., Russia and France. McDonald’s said comparable sales in its Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa division slumped 2.4% due to struggles in Japan and “relatively flat performance” in China and Australia.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, McDonald’s also laid out its December performance. Global same-store sales retreated 1.2%, badly missing forecasts for flat sales. U.S. comparable sales tumbled 3.8%, versus expectations for a drop of 0.8%.

Looking ahead, McDonald’s said it expects global same-store sales to be “relatively flat” in January.

“While near-term challenges remain, we are intent on strengthening our brand to further differentiate McDonald's and become an even bigger part of our customers' lives,” said Thompson.

Shares of Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s fell 0.61% to $94.30 in premarket trading Thursday morning. McDonald’s has widely underperformed the broader markets over the past 12 months, with its shares up just 1.5%.