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McDonald's defies economic climate with plans for expansion

McDonald's fast-food chain is emerging as one of the few global companies to expand during the international financial crisis.

In contrast to multinational companies announcing job cuts and losses, McDonald's is in fact planning to create 12,000 jobs and open 240 new restaurants and 400 new McCafés across Europe, its biggest expansion in the region in five years.

"We're certainly not slowing down," Denis Hennequin, president of McDonald's Europe, told the international media recently as he explained his plans to expand in Europe.

Melo Hili, developmental licensee of McDonald's in Malta, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania said that there had been double digit growth in all four markets and there were plans for expansion in all countries.

"We intend to open new restaurants and carry out major refurbishments in all four countries. In Malta alone we will open two new McCafés this year. About 200 new jobs should be created, including 30 to 40 in Malta," he told The Times Business.

Mr Hili said that McDonald's was not "recessionary-proof" but "recessionary-resistant". He added that the restaurant chain offered good value affordable meals in both good times and bad, which is why McDonald's was seeing so much growth in spite of the global economic climate.

McDonald's has been one of a handful of leading US companies to thrive globally amid the prevailing consumer gloom - together with Wal-Mart it was the only member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to see its share price go up last year, by seven per cent.

Observers say the chain's low-priced menus are attracting a customer base internationally that was already expanding as a result of improved store designs and new menu choices.

In November comparable store sales in Europe rose 7.8 per cent while in the US they were up 4.5 per cent.

The company's expansion is the largest since 2003, when it revamped its business strategy to focus on increasing revenue from sales at existing restaurants.
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