McDonald’s boosts shareholder buybacks to $20 billion

May 28, 2014, 9:32 PM UTC
<<enter caption here>> on March 13, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan 2013 Getty Images

FORTUNE — While McDonald’s (MCD) may be struggling to sell more of its Big Macs and fries, the fast-food giant still has hordes of cash at its disposal, and it’s ready to give $20 billion of it back to shareholders.

The company will put $18 billion to $20 billion toward dividends and share repurchases over the next three years, said CEO Don Thompson at an investor conference Wednesday. That is as much as a 20% increase over the amount of funds returned to investors in the past three years.

The increased investor payment is part of Thompson’s “Plan to Win,” a strategic playbook that is intended to boost the company’s value. McDonald’s also plans to re-franchise at least 1,500 restaurants across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, as well as redistribute its spending to focus on digital opportunities. This plan is “guiding the execution of our global growth priorities,” said Thompson.

MORE: McDonald’s and America’s new low-wage economy explained

The restaurant chain missed first-quarter profit expectations as its sales declined across its existing U.S. stores over five straight months. Only recently has the tide started to turn: The company reported flat same-store sales in April.

Even though sales have stagnated, the company brought in more than $28 billion in revenue last quarter and has an additional $2.7 billion of cash sitting on its balance sheet. The infusion of money to investors may help boost shares of the company, which have stagnated. The company gained 1.1% in share value over the past 12 months compared to a 15% gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

“We will pursue these activities while maintaining appropriate levels of financial flexibility,” said chief financial officer Pete Bensen. “Our commitment to this discipline continues to fortify our long-stand financial strength.”

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