Investors didn't seem too impressed by McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) quarterly results early today, but those who are truly thinking long term must realize the fast food giant is one of the keepers investors should be seeking out these days.
True, fourth-quarter profit did drop at McDonald's. Net income fell 23% to $985.3 million, or $0.87 per share. However, bear in mind that last year's fourth-quarter earnings were boosted by a $0.33 per share tax benefit. Operating income increased 11% to $1.50 billion.
Revenue dipped 3% to $5.57 billion, with the decline resulting from a weaker dollar. However, McDonald's comps continue to be impressive, despite these difficult economic times. Global comps surged 7.2%, with U.S. comps up 5%, Europe up 7.6%, and Asia/Pacific, Middle East, and Africa up 10%.
Like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , McDonald's has been one of those companies that has proven itself resilient despite our ongoing and serious recession. And of course, it's obvious both companies appeal to consumers because they provide wares for those on tight budgets.
Rivalry from other quick-stop restaurant companies like Burger King (NYSE: BKC ) , Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM ) , and Wendy's/Arby's (NYSE: WEN ) Group haven't been able to put a dent in McDonald's momentum, either.
McDonald's has drifted away from its 52-week high of $67, and it's currently trading at 15 times earnings. That may sound like a premium compared to so many retail and restaurant stocks that are trading at single-digit multiples these days (I just noticed high-end restaurant stock Ruth's Hospitality (NYSE: RUTH ) is trading at 3 times earnings), but it seems to me McDonald's premium is worth it, considering that it is performing so well and is a dividend payer to boot.
After all, some of these supposedly cheaper stocks are cheap for a reason, as they struggle in the current economic climate and may have other troubling issues, like too much debt. (For example, Ruth's Hospitality recently said it probably won't be in compliance with one of its debt covenants, so there's a good reason for the low multiple.)
The coming year may present some difficult comparisons for McDonald's, considering it has excelled for several years running. However, I believe there is still gold in the Golden Arches, given its competitive strengths; it's a solid defensive stock in these troubled times.
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