Global fast food giant McDonald's conversion to the cult of healthy eating has put new vigor into its finances.

Its fourth quarter profits more than tripled to $397.9 million (€305.3m, £211m), up from $125.7m in the same period a year earlier, due partly to increased sales of salads and chicken.

The company says sales in France, Germany and Britain improved, largely because of the introduction of new value meals. McDonald's has faced tough times in Europe, mainly due to economic decline in Germany but also over concerns about the growing problem of obesity in children.

A global plan is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks which will include the launch of premium coffees in McDonald's restaurants, throwing down the gauntlet to global cappuccino giant Starbucks.

In a continuing effort to refocus on its core business, McDonald's is mulling the spinoff of its 400-outlet Mexican grill chain Chipotle.

Says ceo Jim Skinner: "This would have an additional benefit of enabling us to allocate more resources to growing sales and profits."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff