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McDonald’s offers a Big Mac dividend for a value menu price

A bit of tarnish on the Golden Arches actually makes McDonald's Corp.'s dividend look even more tasty.

The global fast-food giant has disappointed investors with its recent performance, including October declines in same-store sales – sales from locations open at least a year – in all of its major sales regions, home and abroad. That news sent the shares to a 52-week low of $83.31 (U.S.) on Nov. 16, off more than 18 per cent from its 52-week high.

The shares have ticked up slightly since then, meaning the company's dividend yield – described by the Globe's John Heinzl as "juicy" when it was 3.3 per cent – is now 3.6 per cent.

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Meanwhile, slightly lower estimates for McDonald's 2013 mean the price-to-earnings ratio remains around 15, below recent averages for the shares.

"We believe the company's pressures are fully reflected in the share price," says Morningstar Equity Research's R.J. Hottovy, who has a "fair value" estimate of $94 on the shares. "We continue to find the current valuation as attractive for longer-horizon investors who can withstand a few quarters of potential volatility."

Indeed, don't expect a quick rebound from the company. For the next few quarters, the company has tough sales comparisons. It's also likely to show margin pressure as it tries to boost traffic through value-priced offerings. (At the same time, the company also intends to boost the higher end of its menu through new products.)

While Mr. Hottovy expects sales and profit trends to reverse course and head upwards "in mid-2013," more cautious analysts like Andy Barish of Jefferies & Co., who has a "hold" rating and $83 target price, sees "flattish" earnings per share all through 2013. (Technical analysts are also troubled; as you can see here.)

Waiting for a better entry point than the stock's trading price of $86.33 at midday today? You may get it, if McDonald's upcoming results disappoint. Yet analyst John Ivankoe of JPMorgan Chase & Co., who has an "overweight" rating on the shares, notes McDonald's shares typically trade above a 14 multiple 90 per cent of the time; he uses a 16 multiple – in-line with the company's seven-year average – on his 2014 earnings estimate of $6.32 to get his $101 price target.

And the current annual dividend of $3.08? It's still just roughly 50 per cent of consensus earnings estimates for 2013, meaning McDonald's can weather this rocky period and still boost its dividend next year, which would be its 37th consecutive annual increase.

It sounds like a Big Mac dividend for value menu prices.

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About the Author
Business and investing reporter and columnist

A business journalist since 1994, David Milstead began writing for The Globe and Mail in 2009. During eight years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., he individually or jointly won nine national awards from SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He has also worked at the Wall Street Journal. More

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