McD bucks trend, posts 11.7% leap in Feb. comps

OAK BROOK Ill. McDonald’s Corp. reported on Monday an 11.7-percent surge in year-to-year February same-store global sales, which reflected an 8.3-percent jump at U.S.-based restaurants.

The company attributed the strong domestic performance to breakfast, coffee and the chain’s value positioning. The results also were aided by about 4 percentage points from the extra day in February during this leap year.

Even backing out the leap year effect, the chain’s same-store sales were above analysts' expectations and provided some relief to restaurant industry watchers who had seen McDonald’s stumble in December, when it posted flat year-over-year same-store sales. It was the No. 1 burger chain’s worst result since 2003, and led to escalated fears that a pending recession and further reduction in consumer spending would affect even the healthiest of chains. Last month, the company posted a January same-store sales increase of 1.9 percent in the United States and 5.7 percent globally.

February results included a 15.4-percent jump in Europe, which McDonald’s said was driven by strong results in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia. In the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, February same-store sales increased 10.9 percent.

The results, especially the large resurgence in sales at U.S.-based locations, led some analysts to predict another strong year for the operator or franchisor of 30,000 restaurants worldwide, even in the face of difficult macroeconomic headwinds in the United States.

“McDonald’s is well-positioned to navigate through domestic economic challenges given its tiered menu platform, which offers a broadly appealing mix of everyday value and premium new product news,” Steven Kron, an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., said in a report. “Later this year we expect that a rollout of McDonald’s new beverage platform will further the brand’s U.S. momentum and provide a potential game-changing sales layer for 2009.”

McDonald’s new beverage offerings will include espresso-based drinks that the company has said could add up to $1 billion in incremental sales.