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McDonald's sales miss as fewer customers visit its restaurants

McDonald's (MCD) reported weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue as fewer customers ate at its restaurants, partly due to severe winter weather in the U.S.

The fast-food chain also reported a 0.1 percent decline in global sales at established restaurants in the fourth quarter ended December 31. McDonald's shares fell nearly 1 percent in pre-market trading.

The world's biggest restaurant chain by revenue has posted five straight quarters of disappointing sales. McDonald's signaled in October that weakness in its same-restaurant sales would continue in the fourth quarter amid stiff competition and a lackluster economic recovery.

"As we begin 2014, global comparable sales for the month of January are expected to be relatively flat," chief executive Don Thompson said in a statement on Thursday.

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 Efforts by Thompson in the roughly 18 months since he took the top job — such as tweaking menus and changing management — have not borne fruit, raising concern that McDonald's woes are due to internal rather than external factors.

The company known for its crispy french fries and Big Mac hamburgers reported net income of $1.40 billion, or $1.40 per share, compared with $1.40 billion, or $1.38 per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue grew 2 percent to $7.09 billion. Analysts on average were expecting the company to earn $1.39 per share on revenue of $7.11 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.Global sales at restaurants open for at least 13 months fell 0.1 percent in the quarter, due to "negative comparable guest counts."

Analysts expected a rise of 0.5 percent, according to privately held industry estimates provider Consensus Metrix.Same-restaurant sales in the U.S. fell 1.4 percent, while those in Europe rose 1 percent. In Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) it fell 2.4 percent.Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected a 0.2 percent decline in the U.S., a 1.1 percent rise in Europe and a 1.3 percent fall in comparable sales from APMEA.

McDonald's shares were trading down 0.5 percent at $94.40 in premarket trading on Thursday. They closed at $94.88 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

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