FOOD INDUSTRY

McDonald's makes fat profits from hard times

Soaring demand for low-cost meals in troubled economic times helped US fast food giant McDonald's report an 80% jump in net profit last year to 4.3 billion euros.

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AFP - US fast-food giant McDonald's said Monday its 2008 net profit soared 80 percent from a year, lifted by growing demand from consumers seeking low-cost meals in a deepening global recession.

Net profit for the full year totaled 4.3 billion dollars, compared with 2.3 billion in 2007, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said in a statement.

Excluding exceptional items, earnings per share were 3.76 dollars, widely exceeding consensus market forecasts of 3.63 dollars.

The robust annual results came despite a sharp 23 percent decline in fourth-quarter net profit to 985 million dollars, from 1.273 billion in the 2007 fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter earnings per share were 87 cents, above expectations of 83 cents.

"2008 was a strong year for McDonald's," chief executive Jim Skinner said in the statement.

"Through our strategic focus on menu choice, food quality and value, the average number of customers served per day increased to more than 58 million in 2008."

The global fast-food giant said it saw growth in comparable sales and customer counts across all segment for ever quarter, and double-digit growth in operating income for the final quarter and the year.

Global comparable sales in 2008 increased 6.9 percent. That included rises of 4.0 percent in the United States, 8.5 percent in Europe, and 9.0 percent in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, the company said.

Cost-focused companies such as McDonald's and budget retailers generally have weathered the global financial crisis better than others as consumers seek ways to stretch their dollars.

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