Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. struck a deal to buy 53 retail sites in Louisiana, taking another small bite of the North American market after its biggest ever acquisition last week for CST Brands.
Laval, Que.-based Couche-Tard said Monday it signed an agreement to buy stores held by American General Investments LLC and North American Financial Group LLC, together known as Cracker Barrel. The stores are mostly located in the Baton Rouge area.
No purchase price was disclosed. Couche-Tard said it would finance the purchase from its available cash and existing credit facilities.
This latest deal represents a template for the kind of acquisitions investors should likely expect from Couche-Tard over the next few months as it digests the CST purchase, a $4.4-billion (U.S.) transaction including debt.
The company has a history of deleveraging relatively quickly after doing a deal and expects to reach an adjusted net debt to EBITDAR (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and restructuring) ratio of 2.6 times within 18 to 24 months after the CST transaction closes. The CST deal would make Couche-Tard North America's largest operator of convenience stores and gas stations, vaulting it past 7-Eleven as the top dog on the continent, according to GMP Securities.
"We certainly will be more selective in coming months" in looking for acquisition targets, Couche-Tard Chief Executive Brian Hannasch told analysts after the CST transaction. "We'll continue to look for tuck-in acquisitions and if the right strategic opportunity that's bigger is out there, we'll evaluate it and see if it makes sense for us and for our shareholders. But today, I think the pipeline of smaller deals is robust and we'll continue to be active there."
The stores Couche-Tard is buying in Louisiana currently operate under the Cracker Barrel brand and include 12 quick-service restaurants. All but one of the sites offer branded motor fuel. The agreement will see Couche-Tard take ownership of the land and buildings for 47 locations of the 53 locations while assuming the leases for the other six.
All of the stores will be rebranded and operated under Couche-Tard's Circle K brand. The company is in the midst of a global rebranding effort that will see all of its stores outside Quebec recast under the Circle K name, which it says has the most consumer recognition of all its brands. Its Quebec stores will continue to operate with the name Couche-Tard, French for "night owl."
The new Louisiana stores occupy strategic locations in their respective markets, said Brian Bednarz, vice-president of operations for the company's U.S. division of the gulf coast region. He said it would be a great addition to the company's expansion and growth plans for the area.
Couche-Tard reports its 2017 first quarter results Tuesday. Analysts are forecasting a profit of $0.57 per share on revenue of about $8.7-billion.
Macquarie Capital analyst Bob Summers is anticipating another strong quarter for the company, driven by improvements operating and integrating its previous acquisitions. He says he believes the results will show an increase in both same-store sales and margins. His own forecast is for earnings of $0.55 per share.
"We remain constructive on the convenience store sector and believe Couche-Tard remains a best-in-class global consolidator with a strong management team," Mr. Summers said in an Aug.26 research note. The analyst rates Couche-Tard shares "outperform" with a 12-month price target of $75.
The shares fell 0.9 per cent in morning trading to $67.31.