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LAVAL, Quebec -- Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ACT) yesterday said it has wrapped up its first wave of U.S. acquisitions by closing on its $79.5-million deal to acquire the retailing assets of Hudson, Ohio-based Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. With this acquisition, Couche-Tard now has 545 stores in the midwestern United States and more than 1,300 stores in North America.

"We have completed our first growth platform in the American Midwest and are very pleased to have closed this transaction within a reasonable time frame," said Alain Bouchard, president and CEO of Couche-Tard. "We are proud to gain a solid team and highly confident we can successfully integrate this network."

Under terms of the deal, Couche-Tard becomes the owner of 287 Dairy Mart stores. The Dairy Mart units will be folded into the company's U.S. subsidiary, Mac's Convenience Stores LLC. The deal also calls for one-year management contracts with the remaining franchisee network, which includes 150 stores.

In a statement, Couche-Tard said some of those units could be acquired by Mac's during the next few months, while underperforming units would be closed or sold on behalf of Dairy Mart. In accordance with the agreement, an additional $4.4 million will be paid for the inventories of the stores under the management contract.

The Dairy Mart stores are located primarily in five states -- Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana. Couche-Tard's U.S. subsidiary, which last week changed its corporate name to Mac's Convenience Stores, will operate the Midwest networks under the Bigfoot, Handy Andy and Dairy Mart banners. Moreover, several dozen Bigfoot stores have been converted to the Mac's banner in recent months, and others will showcase this new banner once they are converted to the Store 2000 concept.

"In accordance with our management practices, we will implement benchmarking," Bouchard said. "Our integration plan provides for the transfer of accounting and information technologies over the next six months, offering training programs to employees, installing optical scanners and converting about 15 stores to the Store 2000 concept as developed in the United States."