McDonald's has said it would vastly reorganise its international operations and sell off more corporate sites to franchisees as it strives to reverse a trend of sagging sales.

The US fast-food burger giant said its overseas markets will be organised by their maturity within the McDonald's system, rather than by region.  

Its current structure splits markets outside its home US market into Europe and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. 

McDonald's "international lead" segment will be more mature markets such as Australia, Britain, Canada, France and Germany, "which operate with similar economic and competitive dynamics."

The "high-growth" segment will be those with higher expansion potential, including China, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and South Korea, the world's largest fast-food chain said. 

Remaining regions will go into the "foundational" markets unit.
"Our new organization creates a structure under which leadership of McDonald's new segments will be able to more effectively address the common needs of their markets and customers," said new chief executive Steve Easterbrook.

With 36,000 outlets in over 100 countries, the home of the "Big Mac" has been under pressure from falling customer traffic and revenues for two years, due to a range of challenges including changing consumer tastes and more agile rivals.

Faced with slower sales, McDonald's in January picked Mr Easterbrook to replace Donald Thompson as chief executive. 

In addition to announcing the reorganisation of international markets, Easterbrook said the company would refranchise 3,500 sites by the end of 2018, lifting the share of its franchised restaurants from 81%  to 90% worldwide.

The company also said it would achieve $300m (€268m) in annual cost savings by the end of 2017, in part through the additional refranchising.

It pledged to return $8-9 billion (€7- 8bn) to shareholders in 2015.

Dow member McDonald's shares slipped 0.2% percent to $97.59 (€87.48 in opening trade.