US burger giant McDonald's posted a drop in net income for the fifth consecutive quarter. Sales fell 40% as the group swallowed charges for restructuring at home and was hit by a slump in sales in Asia and Latin America.

Net earnings fell to US$271.9m from US$452.0m in the year-ago period. Full-year net earnings plummeted 17% to US$1.64bn, from US$1.98bn in 2000.

The company is still being held back by a string of difficulties. Mad cow disease strained operations in Europe, while economic problems in other key sales areas squeezed performance. The Japanese investigation into allegedly fraudulent management of one its high-profile games further damaged the group's reputation, while its French Fries came under close scrutiny after the fat they are fried in was reported to be beef-based, making them unsuitable for consumption by vegetarians.

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