Fitch Affirms McDonald's IDRs at 'A/F1'; Outlook Stable

Fri Sep 6, 2013 4:57pm EDT

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) CHICAGO, September 06 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed the ratings of McDonald's Corporation (NYSE: MCD) as follows: --Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'A'; --Bank credit facilities at 'A'; --Senior unsecured debt at 'A'; --Short-term IDR at 'F1'; --Commercial paper at 'F1'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. At June 30, 2013, McDonald's had $13.4 billion of total debt. McDonald's ratings reflect its substantial cash flow, consistent financial strategy, stable credit statistics, leading global market position, and proven operating strategy. McDonald's large stream of high margin sales-based royalties and contractual rent-based revenue is also factored into ratings. Key Rating Drivers: Substantial Cash Flow McDonald's cash flow from operations (CFO) has grown at a 9% compound annual growth rate since 2003 to $7.0 billion in 2012. CFO growth has slowed recently due to more modest sales and operating income growth but remains substantial. Free cash flow (FCF - defined as cash flow from operations less capital expenditures and dividends) has averaged $1.6 billion since 2003. However, FCF is lower than historic levels at roughly $1 billion due to elevated capital expenditures and dividend increases. Fitch believes CFO growth can re-accelerate in 2014, albeit at a lower than historical rate, and that FCF will trend near current levels. Consistent Financial Strategy McDonald's financial strategy is to reinvest in its business, return cash to shareholders, and maintain credit statistics appropriate for an 'A' credit rating. Capital expenditures will approximate $3.1 billion in 2013, fairly flat versus 2012. For the six months ended June 30, 2013, McDonald's paid $1.5 billion in dividends, up from $1.4 billion in the same period last year, but share buybacks totaled $786 million, down from $1.7 billion in the comparable period last year. Strong Global Market Position With over $88 billion of systemwide sales, 34,480 worldwide units, $27.6 billion of total revenue, and $8.6 billion of operating income in 2012, McDonald's is the world's largest restaurant company and a widely respected brand. The firm's geographic segments and their percentage of 2012 revenue and operating income were: the U.S. (32% and 44%), Europe (39% and 37%), APMEA (Asia/Pacific, Middle East, and Africa) (23% and 18%), and Other Countries and Corporate (6% and 1%). Significant Franchise Revenue Franchisees and affiliates operate 81% of McDonald's units while the remaining 19% are company-operated. Revenue from franchising was roughly $9 billion or 33% of McDonald's total revenue in 2012. McDonald's owns about 45% of the land and 70% of the buildings for its system of restaurants. Net property and equipment had a book value of $24.3 billion at June 30, 2013. Proven Operating Strategy McDonald's three global priorities include optimizing its menu, modernizing the customer experience, and broadening accessibility to its brand. Annual global same-store sales (SSS) have only declined twice since 1997, despite multiple economic recessions. McDonald's long-term, average annual constant currency financial targets include 3% - 5% system sales and 6% - 7% operating income growth. Fitch views system sales goals as achievable but believes operating income growth could fall below target levels over the near-to-intermediate term due to potential cost pressures. Recent Operating Performance: For the six months ended June 30, 2013, McDonald's revenue increased 2% to $13.7 billion and operating income rose 1% to $4.2 billion on a constant currency basis. Global SSS were flat with guest counts declining 1.2% and pricing approximating 1.2%. SSS in the U.S., Europe, and APMEA 0.1%, 0.6%, and 1.9%, respectively, while comparable sales rose 6.1% in the Other Countries and Corporate segment. Fitch believes increased emphasis on value and menu innovation helped McDonald's remain competitive during the first half of 2013, despite weak comparable sales. Examples of new menu items include Premium McWraps, Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothies, the Egg White Delight, and an expanded Quarter Pounder platform. Global company-operated restaurant margin declined 90 bps to 17% and franchise margin fell 50 bps to 82.3% as profitability was negatively impacted by weak SSS. Lower selling, general, and administrative expenses partially mitigated this pressure resulting in a modest 30 bps decline in combined operating margin to 30.3%. McDonald's expects commodity food costs to rise 1.5% to 2.5% in the U.S. and 2.0% to 3.0% in Europe during 2013. Fitch believes McDonald's large scale and procurement infrastructure provide the firm significant buying power. Credit Statistics: For the latest 12 month period ended June 30, 2013, total debt-to-operating EBITDA and rent-adjusted leverage (total debt plus eight times gross rent expense divided by EBITDA plus gross rents) were 1.3x and 2.3x, respectively. Rent-adjusted interest coverage (EBITDAR divided by gross interest expense plus gross rent) was 5.2x and funds from operations (FFO) fixed charge coverage was 4.0x. Fitch expects credit metrics to remain near current levels over the near-to-intermediate term. Significant Liquidity, Manageable Maturities: McDonald's liquidity at June 30, 2013, totaled $3.8 billion and consisted of $2.3 billion of cash and full availability under the firm's undrawn $1.5 billion committed revolver, which expires Nov. 1, 2016. Maturities of long-term debt as of June 30, 2013, approximated $33 million in 2013, $554 million in 2014, and $1.1 billion in 2015. About 65% of the firm's $13.4 billion of debt at June 30, 2013 was U.S. denominated and 35% was foreign denominated. Rating Sensitivities: Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a positive rating action include: --Maintaining total debt-to-operating EBITDA and rent-adjusted leverage near 1.0x and 2.0x, respectively, margin stability, and high single-digit FCF margin to sales could result in a positive rating action. --Sustainably strong SSS and operating income growth concurrent with a more conservative stance towards dividends and share repurchases would also be a credit positive. Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a negative rating action include: --Total debt-to-operating EBITDA and rent-adjusted leverage over 1.5x and 2.5x, respectively, and materially lower FCF could lead to a negative rating action. --A prolonged period of negative SSS, margin contraction, and declines in operating cash flow would be viewed negatively. Contact: Primary Analyst Carla Norfleet Taylor, CFA Director +1-312-368-3195 Fitch Ratings, Inc. 70 W. Madison Street Chicago, IL 60602 Secondary Analyst Judi M. Rossetti, CFA, CPA Senior Director +1-312-368-2077 Committee Chairperson Wesley E. Moultrie II, CPA Managing Director +1-312-368-3186 Media Relations: Brian Bertsch, New York, Tel: +1 212-908-0549, Email: brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: --'Corporate Rating Methodology' (Aug. 5, 2013); --'2013 Outlook: U.S. Restaurants - Intensifying Competition, Food Inflation, and Legislation to Drive Operating and Financial Strategies' (Dec. 19, 2012). Applicable Criteria and Related Research: Corporate Rating Methodology: Including Short-Term Ratings and Parent and Subsidiary Linkage here 2013 Outlook: U.S. Restaurants (Intensifying Competition, Food Inflation, and Legislation To Drive Operating and Financial Strategies) here Additional Disclosure Solicitation Status here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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