What do clowns and hamburgers have in common? Not much -- but the surreal marketing association has certainly helped McDonald's
McDonald's announced fourth-quarter and full-year earnings in late January, and while the numbers missed estimates, they did meet the approval of Wall Street, as witnessed in the stock's run into early March.
In the January earnings announcement, the company stated that it generated $3.9 billion in cash from 2004 operations. Overall, the company has $2.5 billion in free cash flow, a heap of greenbacks for expansion! However, in recent trading action, the stock has been moving south. The initial catalyst for the pullback came in early March when the same-store sales report showed signs of trouble in Europe, which then led to a downgrade by Credit Suisse First Boston.
One thing to consider, though, is the fact that the price of the stock is up more than 26% since the beginning of 2004. Here's where we get into the greater Fool theory; true Fools know to not buy foolishly high. Now that McDonald's has come back to more reasonable levels, fundamental investors might consider another bite. Most notably, the company's trailing P/E is less than its primary competitors', with operating and profit margins heartily exceeding the aforementioned -- a healthy sign. And, speaking of healthy, the company is still attempting to add more healthy items to its menu. Changes include swapping the french fries in Happy Meals with apple slices.
Despite substantial gains last year, McDonald's stock is relatively flat for 2005 -- down just under 3%. Competitors Wendy's International
The meat of this burger is that McDonald's remains an excellent addition to any portfolio, since the company continues to bring home the bacon. Thus, this may be a great time to buy the dip, not just the burger! Please keep in mind that the company reports on April 21 -- just a few days away!
Lastly, here's a little clown trivia for a trivial market. Did you know there have been six versions of Ronald? Before Ronald, there were two other clowns: Speedee (1948-1960) and Bozo (1960-1963).
- Fast Facts on Fast Food
- Yum! Heard 'Round the World
- McDonald's Serving Up Sales
- Time to Buy a Value Meal?
Fool contributor Mark Whistler does not own any of the aforementioned stocks, but he does like cheeseburgers a whole lot! Care to discuss Happy Meals? Visit our McDonald's discussion board. Only on Fool.com.