McDonald's to return $18B to $20B to shareholders between 2014 and 2016

Cramer: McDonald's falling behind

McDonald's on Wednesday said it plans to return $18 billion to $20 billion to shareholders between 2014 and 2016 through a combination of dividends and share repurchases.

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The company's three-year "Plan to Win" represents a 10 percent to 20 percent increase over the amount of cash returned to investors between 2011 and 2013.

Adam Berry | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The company also said it plans to refranchise at least 1,500 restaurants by the end of 2016, primarily in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA), and Europe.

Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Pete Bensen said in a statement: "Our three-year cash return target is based on several activities, including the significant free cash flow generated from our operations, as well as the use of cash proceeds from our debt additions and refranchising activity."

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McDonald's said that as part of its new initiative it will scrutinize expenses and refocus its efforts on developing "global digital capabilities."

The fast-food chain's shares traded lower following the announcement. (Click here for the latest quote.)

By CNBC staff