McDonald's Reports First Loss for Quarter

From Reuters

McDonald's Corp. posted its first quarterly loss Thursday as the world's largest restaurant company absorbed the cost of closing hundreds of restaurants and scaled back its profit growth targets.

Facing a fierce price war and changing consumer tastes in the United States, McDonald's said it would close an additional 517 weak-performing restaurants here and in Japan.

McDonald's posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $343.8 million, or 27 cents a share, more than four times greater than it had forecast just five weeks ago.

Shares of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based maker of Big Macs fell 36 cents to close at $15 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In December, Chief Executive Jack Greenberg left under pressure after two years of earnings declines and sales pressure caused by factors such as "mad cow" disease in Europe and Japan and weak economies in Asia.

"Considering the size and nature of our business, a 10% to 15% earnings-per-share growth target is not realistic," said Jim Cantalupo, the company's new chairman and chief executive, pulling back from a goal set in November 2001.

McDonald's said it plans to open about 450 of its traditional stand-alone hamburger outlets this year, 40% fewer than in 2002.

McDonald's said worldwide revenue rose 3% to $3.9 billion.

The company reaffirmed its plans to continue its Dollar Menu, which has been blamed for shrinking profit margins.

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