couchetard draws the line

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. revealed that it will slow expansion in the U.S. this year by buying only 200 to 300 stores, but annual revenue will exceed $14 billion U.S., according to the Montreal Gazette.

“We’ll ease up from last year’s torrid pace, but fill gaps in our regional coverage, continue to raise efficiency and add higher-value products along with 400 store makeovers,” said CEO Alain Bouchard.

Though consolidation is speeding up in the fragmented U.S. convenience-store industry and big acquisition targets are getting harder to find, Bouchard insisted there is still ample room for growth, according to the newspaper.

“We’re always looking and talking to people and we’ve the financial muscle to handle a major deal costing $1 billion or so,” Bouchard said. “If a consumer recession does develop in the U.S., that might well give us the chance to buy at more reasonable prices.”

He added that Couche-Tard’s U.S. platform could handle future competition from big players such as Tesco, 7-Eleven, Casey’s, The Pantry and potentially Wal-Mart Stores.

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