By Marcus Leach

McDonald's today announced strong results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2011, fueled by broad-based comparable sales growth.

"Our dedication to building the McDonald's business by optimising our menu, modernising the restaurant experience and broadening accessibility continues to drive our global performance," said McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner.

"For the quarter, McDonald's delivered double-digit earnings per share growth led by higher comparable sales and guest counts across all geographic segments and strong franchise margin performance.

"Despite the challenges of the current economic environment, I am confident that McDonald's can continue to grow by listening to our customers and remaining true to our proven Plan to Win strategy."

The Company reported the following highlights for the quarter:

- Global comparable sales increased 4.2%, with the U.S. up 2.9%, Europe up 5.7% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 3.2%

- Revenues increased 9% (7% in constant currencies)

- Diluted earnings per share of $1.15, up 15% (12% in constant currencies)

- Returned $2.0 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends

In the U.S., first quarter comparable sales and customer traffic reflect the ongoing demand for McDonald's offerings. Key contributors to the quarter were beverages, including the McCafe line-up, the new Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and featured products including the 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and the Chipotle BBQ Bacon Angus burger.

Strong comparable sales in the U.K., France and Russia as well as positive comparable sales in Germany drove Europe's first quarter results. For the quarter, Europe delivered double-digit operating income growth of 12% (12% in constant currencies). Ongoing emphasis on everyday affordability, classic core menu favorites, signature food events and ongoing restaurant reimaging contributed to performance across many markets.

Australia and China fueled the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) segment's first quarter comparable sales growth. Limited-time value offerings, particularly at the lunch daypart, restaurant reimaging and service initiatives around drive-thru, delivery and extended operating hours contributed to results throughout the segment.

"We remain focused on strategies that will keep the McDonald's brand relevant, contemporary and compelling to our customers and deliver sustained profitable growth. I am confident that by harnessing the collective talents, resources and capabilities of our global System we will continue to grow our business in 2011 and for the long term. As we begin the second quarter, our top-line momentum continues with global comparable sales trending in-line with or better than first quarter sales," Jim Skinner concluded.