Who Is the Most Likely Suitor in Possible Thorntons Sale?

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Who Is the Most Likely Suitor in Possible Thorntons Sale?

A Thorntons convenience store

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thorntons Inc. has not commented on reports that the convenience store chain is up for sale, but that has not stopped reports of potential buyers.

In a recent blog post, the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) named several well-known convenience industry players as bidders, including Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. and Brentwood, Tenn.-based MAPCO, which is owned U.S. subsidiary of Compañía de Petróleos de Chile COPEC S.A.

Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's General Stores Inc. "could even be a buyer, given the challenge it has in gaining the scale necessary to avoid being a takeover candidate," according to OPIS.

"M&A experts polled by OPIS believe that there will be strong interest from consolidators as well as from companies that might view the Thorntons properties as a means of expanding in some key geography," wrote Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at OPIS.

"Marathon [Petroleum Corp.] might be the most logical suitor, but would likely run into Federal Trade Commission issues, where its Speedway or Marathon brands overlap with the private brand," Kloza said. "Marathon also has its hands full in what will be a multiquarter digestion of Andeavor refining, marketing and logistics assets."

Earlier this month OPIS reported that Louisville-based Thorntons retained investment banker Lazard to explore selling the retail operations. The retailer operates 192 convenience stores in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida.

Founded in 1971 by James H. Thornton, the c-store chain is known for its Real Kitchen. Real Food. fresh food program and offering E15 at the pump under its trademarked Unleaded15 brand name.