McDonald’s Earnings Call Insights: Domestic Sales, European Productivity

McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Domestic Sales

Joseph Buckley – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: I’d like to ask a question maybe multiple-part question on U.S. sales. So, you commented on the U.S. second quarter performance being better than the QSR sector as a whole. Could you quantify what you think the QSR sector did for the quarter and was that also true in the month of June for U.S. performance versus IEO? And maybe in conjunction with that, just talk about going monopoly forward, of this week, just the rationale behind that decision?

Don Thompson – President and CEO: I’ll try to address some of the points that you made, and you can – if there is anything we missed, you let us know. But if we look overall in the U.S., it looks like an – and I’ll speak from an informal eating out perspective. It appears that we gained about 10 basis points in the informal eating out category relative to traffic. So, we know that the things that we have put in place are definitely having some impact and it also speaks to some of the things that took place relative to our focus on new products. And so, again looking at the U.S., we know that this year, we were lapping some of the implementations of some of the beverage strategies from last year which launched a little bit earlier, Cherry Berry Chiller, we also know there was a frappe launch earlier in the year. We also had 20 piece nuggets that were launched last year. The great thing for us is that that products that we’ve implemented in the chicken breakfast beverages and beef category, being Egg White Delight, Blueberry Pomegranate, the wraps, the quarter pounders, those things have performed well and met or exceeded the targeted sales. But again, some of the offsets that Pete and I mentioned are some of the reason the sales are softer, aside from the fact that the informal eating out category is projected to be down about 50 basis points. So we know that, we put things in place to address that in the U.S. and we have outperformed the competition. We do know that we have outperformed on a year-to-date basis from a comparable sales performance by a little bit over 1%.

Kathy Martin – IR: Jason West, Deutsche Bank.

Jason West – Deutsche Bank: I guess just one that you guys didn’t touch on there was around the Monopoly pull forward, if you could touch on that? Then just bigger picture, the comments in the press release and in your prepared remarks about a challenging environment over the rest of the year. I don’t think you guys normally talk about the forward outlook quite this much. So just wonder what are your thoughts? Kind of what’s changed since the April call and would we be considering kind of challenges, meaning kind of flat comps continuing over the next several months? Is that the kind of message that you are trying to send…

Don Thompson – President and CEO: Thanks, Jason. As you know we don’t give – we are not going out guidance, that’s not our practice. We do expect the remainder of 2013 to remain challenged based on existing top and bottom-line pressures. We know we are seeing ongoing global economic headwinds. We are seeing flatter declining IEO markets and ongoing competition chasing fewer guest counts as a result of less and discretionary spending. We also know that this is a more price sensitive timeframe based on these economies and we still have ongoing P&L pressures including higher labor and commodity costs and we have less ability to take their price. So relative to those things, that’s kind of the, if you would the framework around the comments that we have made. We continue to believe the long term the average annual financial targets that we put in place are achievable and appropriate. We do know however, in the near term that we are going to face some tough economies around the world and the informal eating out industry is softer around the world and matter of fact, seven out of 11 out of our top markets, were seeing contraction from an IEO perspective.

Peter J. Bensen – EVP and CFO: Jason regarding Monopoly, that was a decision last fall when the U.S. was looking at their calendar and looking at the product launch lineup, thinking about how do we follow-up the introduction of these great new products with a way to continue the momentum and we know that Monopoly is always a great transaction driver and these new products are prominently featured in the Monopoly promotion. So, following those product launches up with Monopoly seemed like a very prudent thing to do.

Kathy Martin – IR: John Glass, Morgan Stanley.

John Glass – Morgan Stanley: Following up on the U.S., Don, when you say the IEO market in the U.S., what definition do you use for that? It seems to me, I recall that you used a broader definition than just a quick service hamburger market, and if that’s the case, could any of the weakness be described by or explained by some of the – your near end competitors doing better? Secondly, can you just – what is the dynamic in the U.S.? Is the low-end customer still there, but the high end may be moved off and maybe they are not taking you up on some of the higher end offers? What’s the dynamic underneath the weakness in comps?

Don Thompson – President and CEO: First of all, the definition we use is really more of a protocol, as questions the information and we use relative to our informal eating out data and they are fairly broad database to your point. So, we look at the overall informal eating out industry. That is what helps us whether it’d be identifying opportunities or looking at who may or may not be doing as well in the industry at that point in time. So, it really is a good barometer of the overall marketplace that QSR segment is a little bit – it’s a little bit more I don’t want to call it myopic, but it’s a much smaller view of the overall marketplace. So, as we’ve looked at that, that’s how we know that the overall marketplace was going to drop by about 50 basis points. Now the interesting thing about IEO is the QSR mix-up, the vast majority of IEO. And so, when you do, what you hear us talk about IEO, we are talking in a large part also about the QSR industry. As we look forward and if you look at who’s winning, who’s not winning in the marketplace, we do know that we’ve gained market share. We know there are a couple of other players that have gained market share, and what we do as we continue to look at our performance relative to the categories of growth which I mentioned earlier, which were chicken, beverages, breakfast and then we also look at the premium beef category which was why you saw it implement the Quarter Pounder line with the three different recipes, which is why you’ve seen us leverage our beverage strategy which we still have some opportunities to leverage that to an even greater extent, and so we’re going to continue to do that. But when you look across our product implementations this year, they have hit each of the growth categories, and so we feel fairly good, those products have met or exceeded the expectations we had. As I mentioned, we did see some offset based upon last year’s promotional activity particularly around 20 piece nuggets and in some of our beverage strategies.

Kathy Martin – IR: Keith Siegner, Credit Suisse.

Keith Siegner – Credit Suisse: If I could just ask another U.S. question kind of more broadly thinking about the IEO market, it seems like a lot of the disappointment say versus our expectations at least on this side have come from IEO market disappointment. If you think through the fact that you’ve got food at home now running significantly below total food away from home, even though you are running below food away from home in terms of pricing, I guess what I’m asking is, is the setup that the food away from home industry might be pricing a little too aggressively in a low inflation environment? How do you think about the relative share trends across IEO versus food at home?

Don Thompson – President and CEO: Keith I am going to let Pete talk a little bit about what’s taking place and relative to our own pricing. What I would tell you and I mentioned it in my comments. One thing we do see in the broader industry is we are seeing a lot of discounting, price discounting. Rather than consistent value platform, which – platforms, which we have around the globe and we have put in place and we are going to maintain that consistency because it’s important to consumers, we know that. But we have seen a lot of I will say sporadic price discounting across the marketplace, but what relative to what we have done and how we have seen pricing, I will ask Pete to make some comments…

Peter J. Bensen – EVP and CFO: Yes, Keith. One of the things I mentioned, we are up about 1.5 points in pricing in the U.S. on a trailing 12 month basis. That’s a 120 basis points below where we were a year ago. So that is clearly one of the factors that is, is contributing to comps maybe being not as strong as some would think. When we look at the dynamics, so food at – food away from home is up 2.5%, food at home up only 0.9% and that’s on a trailing 12 month basis through June, so comparable to our 1.5% price increase. But for the full year both food away from home and food at home are currently projected to be up 2.5% to 3.5% each. So it will be interesting. We will definitely be looking at those as we move throughout the year in making decisions about what we’re going to do with price for the remainder of the year. But as you point out to the extent that food at home continues to be at a significantly lower growth rate, the grocery store is a competitor and that does impact the industry’s ability to pass on price.

Kathy Martin – IR: Brian Bittner, Oppenheimer.

European Productivity

Brian Bittner – Oppenheimer & Co: A bright spot in the quarter was the profit growth in Europe. You had a slightly negative comp and you’re able to somewhat increase the McOpCo margins there. So, can you explain how that’s possible? How did that happen and is that sustainable, if we have continued weak flattish type comps over in Europe going forward?

Don Thompson – President and CEO: I’m going to ask Tim to make some comments about Europe and productivity. I know he has made quite a few visits to the marketplace there, relative to what we’re doing in McOpCo and how we are focused on our margins there and the profitability and productivity aspects of the business. Tim?

Tim Fenton – COO: Brian, first of all, as Pete mentioned, the U.K. and Russia have been two of our best-performing countries in Europe, which represent almost 50% of our Company-operated margins. But in spite – along with that, the team has really done a great job of fine-tuning the P&L efficiencies, particularly in labor scheduling and food cost controls. So, they’ve done a very good job on scheduling efficiencies and just working those through the P&L. So, we are very happy with the progress they’ve made.

Kathy Martin – IR: Matthew DiFrisco, Lazard…

Matthew DiFrisco – Lazard Capital Markets: I guess, if you just look at the guidance in the – in the last and the end of the 8-K there. You talk about G&A. It looks like it’s a little bit of a change from previous where you were 2% to 3% constant currency growth. Now, you are flat. I was wondering what came out of that? Is it simply just a lower outlook brings about lower compensation or is there some of the technologies spend that you did last year that you thought was going to continue at the same pace? Have you been able to save money or are you deferring that to ’14?

Peter J. Bensen – EVP and CFO: Matt, it’s really a combination of factors. Obviously, the technology spend we think is an important long-term differentiator for us and a lot of that is in the restaurant. So, we are appropriately pacing that. There is other areas that we look at for efficiencies in terms of spending, and then finally, as you mentioned, lower performance will yield lower incentive comp and so there is a lower outlook for that as well. So, it’s a combination of all of those.

Kathy Martin – IR: Jeff Bernstein, Barclays Capital.

Jeff Bernstein – Barclays Capital: Just two quick follow-ups. First, as we look at the European business, seems like economists are getting a little bit more bullish on the European economy. It seems like people are calling for bottoming in the middle of ’13 and recovery starting late in ’13. So, being that you get to service all those market across Europe, I am just wondering on the trends you see within the data. How would you size up the pace, or do you feel confident, a likelihood of recovery? Seem like France and Germany would need to improve before perhaps the U.K. and or Russia slows, I am just wondering how you’d size it up based on the data you’re seeing? The follow-up is just, I mean the quality of comments you guys gave for the rest of the – the remainder of the year being challenged. I am just wondering, because you said fairly. A couple of times I know you mentioned that you still grew revenues, operating income and earnings in the second quarter and in the first quarter as well. I am just wondering if that’s a reasonable assumption for the back half of the year with that dynamic change.

Don Thompson – President and CEO: Just a little bit maybe on the European economy and then as we talk about challenges for the rest of the year. First of the all European economy, I can give you a perspective, all of us travel quite a bit to our markets. I don’t know – the economies may be a bit ahead of the sales. That’s my personal perspective, but it’s based upon the fact that if you look at GDP growth even quarter one versus year ago or even as you roll into quarter two, France is still in a recession two quarters now that we’ve seen negative GDP growth. We had Germany, which is negative in GDP growth. Spain is still suffering. From an unemployment perspective, you’ve got much higher unemployment than the norm across Europe. Youth unemployment is something that is somewhat alarming whether it be in France at 26%, Spain at 57%. Have got markets – I was recently in Portugal and Ireland, you got markets, some markets may have bottomed out. I would tell you some of the larger markets are still having some challenges. So we’re looking forward to the bottom out, so to speak and then a resurgence. At times you’ll see a resurgence in some of the markets. Europe for us means 39 different areas and countries that we are working in, but it is a – is still a challenged environment. The wonderful thing for us and I call it a wonderful thing because if we weren’t focused on having implemented the value platforms when we did about a year ago, we would’ve lost more traffic. At this stage of the game we are continuing to gain market share across the majority of European countries and that is the position we wanted to be in. Solidify market share, solidify customer visits, those things then we know lead to – with business you can get sales, with sales you can get profitability, but you have to have the sales coming in the front door. So for us right now Europe is still a big challenge. As we look across the rest of the year, the notion – when we made the comment about challenge it is similar to the second quarter. So as we see third and fourth quarters we see them similar to the second quarter where we still see the ability for us to continue to move the business forward. However, they are challenging environments. We don’t give guidance, but are just really being as transparent as we’ve always been relative to what we see in the marketplaces.

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