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McDonald's ekes out higher profit on value

NEW YORK – McDonald's Corp. eked out a higher profit in the fourth quarter by luring diners with its value menu, but the world's biggest hamburger chain also warned that a key sales figure is expected to drop this month.

The downbeat forecast reflects the intensifying competition and changing dining habits McDonald's faces. After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's recently hit a snag and took a series of steps to bolster slumping sales, such as touting its Dollar Menu and pushing franchisees to stay open on Christmas.

In November, the company ousted the president of its U.S. business after reporting its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade.

For the period ended Dec. 31, McDonald's says it earned $1.4 billion, or $1.38 per share. That compares with $1.38 billion, or $1.33 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose to $6.95 billion, up from $6.82 billion.

The results topped expectations for profit of $1.33 per share on revenue of $6.9 billion.

Globally, however, sales at restaurants open at least a year rose just 0.1 percent for the period. In the U.S., the figure rose 0.3 percent. In Europe, McDonald's biggest market, the figure fell 0.6 percent as guest counts declined. The figure fell 1.7 percent in the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

That's an important measurement of a restaurant chain's performance.

Over the long term, CEO Don Thompson said the company continues to target total sales growth of 3 percent to 5 percent.

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