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Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. ATD-B-T is looking to shed nearly 4 per cent of its North American network starting with a deal to sell 49 stores in Oklahoma to Casey’s General Stores Inc. for US$39-million.

The deal includes 46 leased and three owned properties and is expected to close by July 31.

The Quebec-based convenience store company says it has also hired a real estate advisory firm to help with the sale of 306 other sites across North America after a strategic review.

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“The decision to divest select stores fits within the company’s network optimization strategy and follows a comprehensive and uniform network planning process that began in the fall of 2020,” Couche-Tard chief executive Brian Hannasch said in a statement.

“Through this process, we have identified sites that no longer fit our strategic objectives, either from a brand perspective or from a regional scale perspective.”

He added that the retailer has identified many opportunities to expand by building new stores, enlarging others, improving store layouts and enhancing sales of fresh food.

The stores up for sale include 269 locations across 25 states in the United States and 37 sites across six provinces in Canada.

Analyst Irene Nattel of RBC Dominion Securities says the 355 stores, which includes the stores to be sold to Casey’s General Stores, represent about 3.8 per cent of Couche-Tard’s network.

“Given the real estate value associated with the sites to be divested there is a strong possibility that total proceeds will exceed … US$285-million, particularly if locations for sale include prime locations in urban areas,” she wrote in a note to clients.

“While this morning’s announcement is not overly material from a financial perspective, we view the news positively. The network optimization operation is consistent with our positive views around management’s focus on optimizing returns and willingness to think outside the box in its pursuit of surfacing value for shareholders.”

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The deal with Casey’s comes more than a decade after the Iowa-based chain rebuffed a hostile takeover attempt by Couche-Tard.

Couche-Tard has more than 14,200 stores in 26 countries and territories.

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