McDonald's franchisees optimistic about first-quarter sales growth

Key Points
  • McDonald's franchisees estimate that same-store sales will be up 0.8 percent in the first quarter
  • The burger chain faces difficult comparisonsover last year
  • Nomura-Instinet has raised its same-store sales forecast for the first quarter by 2.7 percent
Customers order food from a McDonald's restaurant
Scott Olson | Getty Images

McDonald's franchisees are feeling pretty confident ahead of the company's earnings report next week.

A group of 31 domestic Golden Arches' franchisees, who own about 243 stores collectively, said in a recent survey by Nomura-Instinet that they expect same-store sales at their respective locations to be up 0.8 percent in the first quarter.

Here's how their estimates break down by geographic zone for the first quarter:

Based on these results, Nomura-Instinet analyst Mark Kalinowski raised his same-store sales estimate for the company by 270 basis points, saying he expects the metric to be up 0.8 percent for the quarter. Wall Street's consensus estimate is that comparable sales will be down 1.1 percent.

"We believe that a focus on value and beverages, as well as the Big Mac line extension promotion, served McDonald's well during a challenging time for the restaurant industry in general during Q1," Kalinowski wrote in a research note Thursday.

McDonald's has a high bar to top. In the same quarter last year, the chain's same-store sales rose 5.4 percent. The company also had one less day in the quarter because of Leap Day last year.

"Any number in positive territory should be viewed as a victory for the Golden Arches heading into less difficult comparisons over Q2 to Q4," Kalinowski said.

Nomura-Instinent polled the same domestic franchisees about second quarter 2017 and, in aggregate, they expect same-store sales to be up 2.2 percent.

Here's how their estimates break down by geographic zone for the second quarter:

Kalinowski bumped his same-store sales estimate up 20 basis points for the second quarter and now expects 2.2 percent growth.

He also increased his first-quarter and full-year earnings per share estimates by 2 cents each. He now expects first-quarter earnings of $1.35 per share and full-year earnings to come in at $6.21 a share.

In addition, Kalinowski raised his target price $10 to $146.

McDonald's shares were relatively unchanged Thursday. They were last trading hands at $133.14.