MCDONALD'S EARNINGS SLIDE; LAYOFFS PLANNED

Venus and Serena Williams Signed to Promote Burgers

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- McDonald's Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., today said it will cut some jobs in the near term as it tries to stop the bleeding from negative sales.

McDonald's reported its seventh earnings decline in eight quarterly periods, with an 11% drop in net income to $486 million, or 38 cents per diluted share.

Executives tried to put an optimistic spin on the fourth quarter and 2003, citing positive early returns from the launch of its new Dollar Menu and efforts to improve restaurant operations.

No guidance for analysts
The fast-food giant is currently conducting a global review of its general and administrative costs. Chairman-CEO Jack Greenberg confirmed layoff rumors during its third-quarter conference call with analysts. He cautioned that it is "too preliminary to give specific guidance," but "it is likely there will be some job losses," he said. "We hope that it won't be significant, but we don't know yet."

Mr. Greenberg called this month the "longest in our history," but insisted that the global restaurant company's business model was strong despite "external economic factors."

Mike Roberts, president of McDonald's USA, claimed

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the Dollar Menu boosted sales by 1.5% to 2% during the first 14 days since its launch. He also said increased staffing during the launch was the catalyst for boosting monthly sales by 2.3% in south Florida test units.

Williams sisters
Mr. Roberts also confirmed the marketer signed a deal with the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams to appear in upcoming ads for the Dollar Menu. Recent efforts have featured real estate mogul Donald Trump and comedian Cedric the Entertainer.

Still, executives were wary of committing to a bullish future. "To try to predict long-term growth would be a mistake," Mr. Greenberg said.

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