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MONTREAL - Leading Canadian convenience store operator, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., said this week that its next acquisition would be in the United States, Reuters reports.
"We can easily buy three, four or five hundred stores," Couche-Tard head Alain Bouchard told reporters after the company's annual meeting. "It could be an investment in the range of C$500 million to C$600 million ($370 million to $445 million)."
Bouchard said he had no interest in the nearly 300 White Hen Pantry stores of bankrupt Clark Retail Enterprises, and he would not comment his potential interest for the 2,000 Circle K stores put for sale by ConocoPhillips.
Montreal-based Couche-Tard first entered the U.S. market less than two years ago. It now makes more than a third of its C$3.37 billion in annual sales there.
Through several acquisitions, Couche-Tard has built a network of 690 stores concentrated in the U.S. Midwest, compared with 1,800 across Canada.
"We think Couche-Tard will be bigger in the United States in the number of stores in three or four years from now with all the opportunities we are seeing now," Bouchard said.
Couche-Tard is now the seventh largest convenience store operator in North America, behind 7-Eleven and five oil companies, according to Reuters.
Couche-Tard is also increasing the number of fast-food counters in its stores with franchises from Subway, Taco Bell or Dunkin Donuts. The goal is to improve overall profitability by offsetting the pressure on cigarettes and gasoline margins with the higher profit margins of fast food.