McDonald's began 2009 by reporting strong end to 2008, as the global fast food chain continues to do well in difficult economic times with a fourth quarter profit that beat Wall Street analysts' expectations.

Profit for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based global fast food restaurant change was down 23 percent compared to the same period in 2007, with the company citing a tax benefit that inflated year-ago results.

McDonald's said it earned $985.3 million or 87 cents per share compared to $1.27 billion or $1.06 per share in the same period in 2007. Excluding a tax benefit of 33 cents in that 2007 quarter McDonald's profit was of 73 cents per share. Total revenue in the fourth quarter was $5.67 billion, a 3 percent decline from a year ago.

Analysts expected a profit of 83 to 84 cents per share on revenue of $5.70 to $5.72 billion, according to polls by Thomson Reuters and FactSet Research respectively.

2008 was a strong year for McDonald's, said Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner in a statement. McDonald's begins 2009 with six years of momentum, a business model that has delivered even in challenging economic conditions and January sales that remain strong, he added.

McDonald's benefited from the economic crisis as it offered pricier dining options, more menu offerings and took advantage of extended hours to appeal to consumers tight in cash. It also benefited from low prices of fuel and many other commodities, according to Marketwatch.

Operating income climbed 11 percent to $1.5 billion. Global sales at stores open at least a year increased of 7.2 percent triggered by a 5 percent increase in the U.S., a 7.6 percent rise in Europe and an increase of 10 percent in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, McDonalds said in a statement.