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McDonald's sales fall, especially in Asia

Feb. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- McDonald's says a key sales figure dropped again in January as the world's biggest hamburger chain faced ongoing weakness in Japan and sales in China were hurt by a food scare.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said global sales at restaurants open at least 13 months dropped 1.9 percent for the month. The figure is a key metric because it strips out the volatility of newly opened and closed locations.

After years of outperforming rivals, McDonald's has been struggling amid intensifying competition and challenging economic conditions around the world. Late last year, the company ousted the head of its U.S. business after the sales figure dropped for the first time in nearly a decade. CEO Don Thompson, who took the top spot this summer, has vowed to add business by emphasizing value while planning a series of new limited-time offers to attract customers.

But Thompson also warned last month that sales were trending negative for January. The company was also up against a tough comparison from a year ago, when global sales rose 6.7 percent.

Lay's test-crunches 3 flavors picked by fans

NEW YORK -- The next Lay's potato chip will taste like chicken and waffles. Or cheesy garlic bread. Or Sriracha, a hot sauce often used in Thai dishes.

Lay's is letting potato chip lovers decide which one of the three will be its newest flavor. All of them will be sold at retailers nationwide starting next week. After trying them, fans have until May to vote for their favorites. The flavor with the most votes will stay on store shelves.

But if the other two flavors sell well, they may remain in stores, too, said Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay. "Who knows, we don't know what's going to happen." she said. "Our intent is to keep the one that people vote for."

It's the latest promotional stunt that tries to engage customers through social media and direct interaction, much as Hasbro's Monopoly did with its recent contest that ended with the addition of a cat game token and the demise of the iron.

Nissan quarterly profit dives on China slump

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. reported a 35 percent plunge in October-December profit to 54.1 billion yen ($579 million) as global sales languished, especially in China, where anti-Japanese sentiment flared over a territorial dispute.

Quarterly sales dipped 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 2.2 trillion yen ($23.5 billion), Yokohama-based Nissan said Friday. Nissan's earnings fell short of the 61 billion yen ($652 million) profit forecast by a FactSet survey of analysts.

The earnings report prompted Standard & Poor's analyst Efraim Levy to downgrade Nissan's U.S. shares from "Buy" to "Hold."

Nissan shares fell $1.07, or 5.1 percent, to close at $20.03.

Levy also cut his 2013 earnings estimate for Nissan by 9 cents to $2.01, but kept his price target for the stock at $22.

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