Fast food chain McDonalds has reported a 6.8% rise in comparable sales in March with first quarter sales up 4.6%.

US comparable sales rose by 6.8% for the month and 5.2% for the quarter. Europe's comparable sales were up 6.6% for the month, 2.9% for the quarter.

First quarter 2005 earnings per share are expected to be about $0.56, up 40%.

"We delivered solid global results for the first three months of 2005 with first quarter comparable sales up 4.6% against last year's outstanding comparable sales performance," said CEO Jim Skinner. "Our performance in the US continues to be driven by multiple initiatives that are delivering variety, value, choice and convenience to our customers."

"Europe's comparable sales rose 6.6% in March driven by positive customer response to our menu variety, everyday affordability and improved service throughout Europe," he said. "Results for March also benefited from the change in timing of Easter, and related school holidays, from April in 2004 to March in 2005. Sales results for April 2005 will be negatively impacted by this same holiday shift."

"In our Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa segment, comparable sales increased 7.3% in March due to strong results in Japan, Australia and Taiwan" he said.

"Later this week, we will celebrate McDonald's 50th anniversary," he said. "As we commemorate this milestone, we celebrate the Company's many accomplishments and express gratitude to those who have contributed to our success. Reflecting on our heritage, we are reminded that the most critical component of our success is our
customers. Looking ahead to the next 50 years, we remain focused on becoming our customers' favourite place and way to eat."