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Couche-Tard looks to expand Statoil’s reach in Europe

Pedestrians walk past a Couche-Tard convenience store in Montreal, April 18, 2012. Canadian convenience-store company Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc has struck a deal to buy Norwegian company Statoil Fuel and Retail ASA for 15.9 billion crowns ($2.8 billion) to gain a foothold in Europe's top-performing economies. Couche-Tard, which operates convenience store chains in Canada and the United States, will pay 53 crowns a share, a 52.5 percent premium, for SFR, Scandinavia's top gas-station chain operator. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS)


Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. says it is looking to expand Statoil Fuel & Retail's reach to new markets in Europe after its purchase of the Norwegian company elicited interest from other oil brands.

The Quebec-based retailer has taken control of Scandinavia's leading fuel and convenience store chain which has operations in central and Eastern Europe.

Couche-Tard says 94.1 per cent of Statoil's shareholders have tendered to its $2.7-billion offer. It also bought an additional 2.7-per-cent stake in the market, raising its ownership to 96.7 per cent.

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The remaining shares will be added over the next couple of months, but SFR will be incorporated into Couche-Tard's results in the next quarter.

Chief executive officer Alain Bouchard says SFR was restricted from doing business with other oil companies while it was majority owned by Statoil. Now that bond has been broken, it has received calls from players looking to sell their retail operations.

During a conference call Wednesday from Oslo, Mr. Bouchard also said SFR will consider adding new markets outside of its base. Mr. Bouchard has previously expressed an interest in Germany.

He added that Couche-Tard's entry into Europe won't reduce the pace of its acquisitions in North America.

Mr. Bouchard also said he doesn't foresee any problem with the unionization of SFR stores even though Couche-Tard has vigorously fought efforts in Quebec to unionize stores.

Unionization is the rule that all convenience store retailers face in Europe, something that is the rare exception in North America.

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