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McDonald’s Comp Sales Paced by European Surge

The Exchange

McDonald's (MCD) said its global comparable sales rose 1.9% in August, its second-best monthly performance of the year and one that was carried by strength in Europe, including France. However, Germany, the region's biggest market by store count for McDonald's, continued to lag.

Still, the overall result easily surpassed analysts' consensus estimate of 0.3%, according to a Bloomberg report that cited Consensus Matrix.

Europe's same-store sales were up 3.3%, a result last exceeded in June 2012, when comps climbed 5.1%. As has been the case for some time, the U.K. and Russia were stronger performers, though France was, as well, making for a pleasant surprise in a market where McDonald's has struggled. Germany, meanwhile, posted negative results again. At the end of 2012, Germany was home to 1,440 McDonald's locations, whereas the U.K. had 1,208 and France 1,258. Russia's a much smaller market, with 356 units.

McDonald's global sales width=

Source: McDonald's.

In its monthly updates, McDonald's tends to speak in directional generalities, but it is notable that France has previously been called out as depressed and this time around joined the better-performing United Kingdom and Russia markets. Since it's one of McDonald's biggest countries in Europe, France is an important indicator of the system's health on the continent. Even so, the company, in a press release Tuesday, was sure to mention "Europe's tepid economic environment."

For the U.S., home to more than 14,000 of McDonald's 34,000-plus restaurants, same-stores were up 0.2% last month. McDonald's said its recurring Monopoly promotion helped American shops, but the results were "dampened by the persistently challenging environment." Domestic comps have been rocky all year, with three negative months of the eight reported so far.

The Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region trailed the other two, with comps down 0.5%. Japan remained weak. Only the U.S. has more restaurants than Japan, which had nearly 3,300 McDonald's locations at the end of last year.

Comparable sales are a function of the number of diners in McDonald's stores and the size of the average sale. The figures exclude the effects of foreign-currency translation.

McDonald's regional sales width=

Source: McDonald's. February 2013 sales reflect comparisons against the prior year's extra day for leap year. Excluding the extra day, U.S. same-store sales were flat, Europe was up 2.7%, and APMEA increased 1.5%.

Value and limited-time offerings have been key talking points at the Oak Brook, Ill., chain, which is trying to keep traffic up with lower-priced menu items and simultaneously avoid denting profits. McDonald's executives have said they want people to come in for a deal and then decide to buy something more expensive once they're at the counter.

No stranger to new offerings and limited fare, this year has included the addition of the chicken McWrap, a planned short run this fall of chicken wings, a special meal box promotion, expanded breakfast and a new steak option. The pricier Angus burger was dropped from stores.

The impact of competition has also been a theme, as McDonald's and other chains such as Wendy's (WEN) and Burger King (BKW) aim to stay in the news and at the front of consumers' minds. Even as they're shaking up their menus and tinkering with pricing, they're going up against higher-end food sellers like Chipotle (CMG).

Shares of McDonald's were little changed, up 0.3% at $96.73. The stock has gained 9.7% this year vs. the 18% advance in the S&P 500.