U.S. same-store sales, where fast-food competitor Yum! Brands
Longer operating hours, improved product offerings (especially salads), and a three-meal focus are producing these record results. The future looks bright, too. Beginning in 2005, the company is forecasting annual worldwide sales growth of 3% to 5% and, better yet, annual income growth of 6% to 7%.
McDonald's is not value-meal priced, however. Selling at a plump 32 times trailing earnings (and 16 times forward earnings), its shares are at a premium for 7% earnings growth. Add in a weighty total debt of $9.4 billion, and there's little reason to expect the stock to run away from the market here. Shares have skyrocketed from a 52-week low of $12.12 in March to current $25 levels, but are still below their 1999 high of $49.51.
Despite its lofty valuation, though, McDonald's still possesses lots of positive characteristics. It's a cash cow (no bull). The company continues to expand rapidly, is buying back its stock, and is reducing debt. And although the 1.5% dividend will not make you rich today, there is room for it to grow as McDonald's prepares a new recipe for sales growth and profitability.
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You can reach W.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org. He owns stock in McDonald's and Yum! Brands. This Take is not going to win him any smiles at home. He purchased McDonald's for his granddaughter in order to teach her about the stock market. At dinner tonight, she is certainly going to say, "Why didn't you sell at $49.51?"