Video: McDonald's February sales

updated 3/8/2010 10:14:31 AM ET 2010-03-08T15:14:31

Strong overseas growth for McDonald's Corp. in February outweighed U.S. sales that barely nudged upward as the world's largest fast-food chain posted a 4.8 percent increase in sales at restaurants open at least a year.

The results come on the heels of January's 2.6 percent rise and were a welcome return to steady growth after back-to-back months of declines in the key sales figure late last year.

Sales at restaurants open at least a year are a key indicator of performance because they measure growth at existing locations rather than newly opened ones.

Baird analyst David Tarantino maintained his "Outperform" rating on the world's largest burger chain, calling Monday's report better than expected.

In the U.S., McDonald's performance improved — edging up 0.6 percent after a 0.7 percent decline in January. Citi analyst Greg Badishkanian said the U.S. results were hurt by the series of snowstorms that pounded much of the country during the month.

Still, U.S. sales were driven by strong demand for the chain's breakfast dollar menu, McCafe drinks and a Chicken McNugget promotion centered around the Winter Olympics.

Results in Europe climbed 5.4 percent, while Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa's performance soared 10.5 percent. McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., reported strong performances in France, the U.K., Japan, China and Australia.

Systemwide sales, which includes sales at restaurants run by the company and franchisees, increased 11.2 percent in February.

In January, McDonald's said that its fourth-quarter profit climbed, helped by its dollar menu. But yearly sales dropped for the first time in at least a quarter-century.

Still, McDonald's did considerably better than nearly all its fast-food competitors, who have been slashing prices — at the expense of profits — to get customers in the door as the economy slowly heads toward recovery.

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