Couche-Tard Eyes 'Interesting Opportunities'

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Couche-Tard Eyes 'Interesting Opportunities'

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 07/09/2013

LAVAL, Quebec -- As Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. wraps up a successful fiscal year 2013, the convenience store retailer is moving into fiscal year 2014 in full acquisition mode.

Couche-Tard, the parent company of Circle K in the United States and Mac's Convenience Stores in Canada, is currently active in the acquisition scene and looking at "several interesting opportunities," President and CEO Alain Bouchard said today during an earnings call. He noted that the retailer hopes to announce something on that front soon.

While Bouchard declined to give specifics on the opportunities, he did say the acquisition environment is active "on both sides of the pond" -- North America and Europe -- and Couche-Tard has the capacity to buy any sized business that comes on the market.

Future opportunities aside, Couche-Tard has not shied away from acquisition activity as of late. In February, the company purchased 29 stores in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma from Dickerson Petroleum Inc. Couche-Tard owns the land and buildings for 25 sites, while it leases the land and owns the building for the other sites. The company also picked up fuel supply agreements for 21 sites, of which 20 are owned and operated by independent operators; the other is leased by Couche-Tard and operated by an independent operator.

In addition, Couche-Tard completed the construction of 15 new convenience stores during the 16-week period ended Feb. 3 for a cumulated total of 38 new-build stores since the beginning of fiscal 2013.

Looking at the company's numbers, Couche-Tard recorded net earnings of $146.4 million for its fourth quarter, up $28.6 million from the same period in 2012. While the quarter's growth was slower than previous ones, fiscal year 2013 marked the fifth consecutive year that the company posted a solid increase in net earnings, Bouchard said.

"This fifth fiscal year posting an increase in net earnings was marked by a fourth quarter in which growth was slightly lower than the previous quarters, partly explained by less favorable weather conditions in several of our markets, but especially by higher expenses in Europe," the CEO said, adding that the company saw significant marketing expenses on projects aimed at creating value in Europe like a new information technology infrastructure.

Still, Bouchard said he is "proud of what the company accomplished in fiscal year 2013," including the acquisition of Norway's Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA. The deal -- the largest in Couche-Tard's history -- included approximately 2,300 convenience stores throughout Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltic countries and Russia.