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McDonald's profit, December same-store sales rise

McDonald's Corp reported a higher quarterly profit as strength in international markets offset its weak US business, which is grappling with high unemployment and rampant discounting.

The world's largest hamburger chain also said sales trends remained positive in January at restaurants open at least 13 months.

US same-store sales rose 1% in December, after two months of declines. The company has faced competition from fast-food chains like Burger King and Yum Brands' Taco Bell, which are using low prices to lure diners.

McDonald's said fourth-quarter profit was $1.22 billion, or $1.11 a share, up from $985.3 million, or 87 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, McDonald's earned $1.03 a share. On that basis, analysts' average forecast was $1.02, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue, which includes sales from company-owned restaurants plus royalties from franchisees and other fees, rose 7% to $5.97 billion, topping analysts' forecast of $5.94 billion.

Globally, same-store sales rose 2.3% for the quarter and 2.7% in December.

McDonald's and some other fast-food restaurants had benefited when the global economic downturn sent customers to lower-priced fare, including McDonald's Dollar Menu items.

But some consumers recently have returned to more upscale chains like Panera Bread Co and Starbucks Corp -- leading some analysts to say that fast-food chains are now in for a period of sinking sales and rampant discounting, the likes of which hobbled pricier restaurants for much of the recession.

Shares edged up 0.5% to $63.50 in premarket trading. (Reuters)