The company has been battling public fears with stepped up advertising and greater promotion of non-beef products.
Sales to Europe, the company's second-largest market behind the U.S., fell 10 percent in the quarter to $2.21 billion from $2.45 billion one year ago. Operating income fell 17 percent to $267.3 million from $322.2 million.
"Europe got hit pretty hard," said Bear Stearns analyst Joe Buckley, who in June lowered his rating on McDonald's shares to neutral due to broader international concerns, including fluctuations in the euro. "The problem with mad cow is that it is an unknown. No one knows how long these concerns last."
Systemwide sales, which include sales from restaurants owned by franchises and those owned by the company, rose to $9.92 billion from $9.75 billion a year ago.
Sales in the United States, McDonald's largest market, rose 3 percent to $4.82 billion, from $4.68 billion one year ago. Operating income rose 14 percent to $385.3 million from $338.9 million. Sales in Asia Pacific, McDonald's third-largest market, rose 3 percent to $1.75 billion from $1.70 billion a year ago.
"Despite a number of operating challenges, our worldwide comparable sales were positive and systemwide sales increased seven percent in constant currencies for the year," Greenberg said.
The company plans to add about 1,700 restaurants in 2001, he said. The company said that 2001 per share earnings were expected to grow between 10 percent to 13 percent, excluding the impact of foreign currency translation.
In the year, it plans to buy back about $1.2 billion in stock, the remainder of a three-year $4.5 billion plan. In 2000, it purchased $2.0 billion worth. BACK TO TOP
Qwest Tops Wall Street
Telephone and data services provider Qwest Communications today posted a better-than-expected 44 percent jump in fourth-quarter profits, propelled by robust growth in Internet, data and wireless telephone revenues.
Qwest, which acquired regional phone company U S West Inc. last year in a $36 billion deal, said in a statement it was on track to meet its targets for 2001 revenues and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, a key measure of a company's performance.
Andrew Hamerling, an analyst with Banc of America, called the results "terrific."
"Everything is as expected," he said. "Overall I'd say it's a great quarter."
The Denver-based company said pro forma profits excluding one-time items rose to $270 million, or 16 cents a diluted share, compared with $188 million, or 11 cents a share, a year ago.
The results beat Wall Street expectations of 14 cents a share, according to research firm First Call/Thomson Financial.
"With the initial integration of the [U S West] merger successfully completed, we are on track to meet our expected growth rates," Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio said in a statement.
Qwest said revenues rose 9.9 percent to $5.02 billion. The increase was driven by growth of almost 40 percent in Internet and data services.
Wireless revenues rose 90 percent to almost $150 million. The number of wireless customers increased to more than 805,000, above the company's target of 800,000 for the end of 2000.
Fourth-quarter EBITDA was up 19.7 percent, to $1.99 billion.
Shares of Qwest have fallen about 10 percent amid sharp declines throughout the telecom sector over the past year. Its stock has underperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index by about 4 percent.