McDonald’s Holdings Co. Ltd. (Japan) predicted Friday a group net loss of 2.3 billion yen ($19.33 million) for the year 2002.

The news comes a scant two weeks after the company revised profit estimates downward by more than 90 percent to a net profit of 530 million yen ($4.4 million). The company said the loss is exacerbated by a special charge of 4.9 billion yen ($40.65 million) in 2002 from a planned closure of 176 outlets in the next year.

This will be the first net loss for the 50%-owned unit of U.S. fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:MCD) since 1973.

McDonald’s Japan has been struggling despite lowering hamburger prices to the equivalent of 50-cents in an effort to recover from the mad cow scare. Sales have fallen in each of the last three months.

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