McDonald's franchisees had their doubts

McDonald's has been fighting to win back customers, but its franchisees weren't so sure of the comeback plans ahead of the chain's launch of an all-day breakfast menu back in October. An internal survey of franchisees around that time found only 14 percent of U.S. franchisees agreed or strongly agreed that the company's turnaround agenda was working. And only 35 percent said they felt confident about McDonald's success over the long term, down from 46 percent the previous year, according to survey results provided to the Associated Press. Less than half — 48 percent — said they had a clear understanding of the company's vision of becoming a "modern progressive burger and breakfast company." The percentage who said they were "proud to be a McDonald's Owner/Operator" also fell to 77 percent, down from 84 percent the previous year.

Airlines' on-time rating improved slightly

U.S. airlines are doing a slightly better job of keeping flights on schedule although more than one-in-five flights still arrives late. The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that 77.8 percent of domestic flights in December arrived within 15 minutes of schedule — on time, according to the government. That is up from 75.3 percent the previous December, although it is down from November's 83.7 percent on-time rate. Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance at 93 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines at 85.3 percent. Spirit Airlines had the worst performance, with only 68.7 percent of its flights arriving on time. Among the four major U.S. airlines, Delta arrived on time most often, followed by American, United and Southwest.

Apple Pay system begins in China

Apple Inc. on Thursday launched its smartphone-based payment system in China, where the electronic payments market is already dominated by an arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba. Apple said Apple Pay could be used with cards from 19 banks and "numerous merchants." The merchants include supermarket Carrefour, fast-food outlets McDonald's and KFC, and convenience store 7-Eleven, according to a news release Wednesday from China UnionPay, the country's state-owned credit card processor with which Apple is working. Apple's electronic payment system started in the United States in October 2014 and has since spread to Britain, Canada and Australia. Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain are coming this year.

Kmart buys up products to sell at discount

Struggling discount department store Kmart will begin selling merchandise from bankrupt retailers, liquidations and "other opportunistic situations," the company said Wednesday. Kmart said it would soon be offering Bluelight Special and closeout items from The Brinkmann Corp., an outdoor cooking and lighting manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy last year. Court records from Brinkmann's bankruptcy case and a related case associated with its Malibu Lighting brand show Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, paid about $3.29 million for hundreds of thousands of Brinkmann, Malibu Lighting and Q-Beam products, including 4,056 glossy black Smoke'N Grill charcoal smoker and grills, 10,452 beer-can chicken roasters and 83,555 grill brush and scrapers.

Freddie Mac profit rises on higher rates

Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage company, said its net income jumped in the fourth quarter on higher interest rates. It also said Thursday that it will pay a dividend to the U.S. Department of Treasury of $1.7 billion next month. Freddie Mac has paid more than $96 billion in dividends to the Treasury since 2008, surpassing the $71.3 billion in bailouts it received from the government between 2008 and 2012. Freddie Mac, based in Based in McLean, Va., doesn't make loans to home buyers. Instead, it buys mortgages from lenders, packages them into bonds, guarantees them against default and sells them to investors.

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