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OAK BROOK, IL-With sales boosted by a struggling economy and looking to expansion oversease, McDonald’s Corp. will open 1,000 new units globally, executives said at the company’s fourth-quarter conference call.

Plans call for opening 165 units in the United States, 245 in Europe and 475 in the Asia/Pacific/Middle East/Africa sector, including 175 in China. The result will be 650 net new stores worldwide. In addition, a good portion of the company’s planned $2.1 billion in capital expenditures will be dedicated to refurbishing existing units, including adding McCaffe gourmet coffee shops.

“We expect to open restaurants each year at a pace that allows reinvestment in our existing restaurants,” said Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner.

Economic slowdowns in Germany and China will not affect expansion, said Ralph Alvarez, president and chief operating officer.

“With Germany, we look at new store metrics, and Germany has very strong returns. We build these stores for 20-plus years,” Alvarez said. New units will open in unique locations such as train stations. “With China, we have a very deep inventory of sites.”

For the quarter, sales were $5.6 billion, down 3% from the previous year. (In August 2007, the company sold its investment in Boston Market as well as its businesses in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and 13 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.) Net income was $985.3 million, down 23%. Global comparable sales rose 7.2%, with the United States rising 5.0%, Europe up 7.6% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 10.0%.

For the year, total revenues were $23.5 billion up 3% from the previous year. Net income was $4.3 billion, up 80% from the prior year. Global comparable-store sales rose 6.9%, with the United States rising 4.0%, Europe increasing 8.5%, and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 9.0%.

McDonalds operates more than 30,000 local restaurants in more than 100 countries.

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