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Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is exploring the purchase of French grocer Carrefour SA.

Couche-Tard said in a statement that it is in "exploratory discussions" about a friendly deal with Carrefour.

If the deal goes through, it will mark a significant shift for Couche-Tard, which has been focused on convenience stores and gas stations. It would expand the company's presence in Europe, where Carrefour operates close to 3,000 grocery stores and more than 700 larger format hypermarkets. The grocer also operates stores in Argentina and Brazil. Carrefour says it plans to open 3,000 convenience stores by 2022 according to information on its website.

Couche-Tard has a network of more than 9,000 convenience stores in North America, most of which also offer fuel retail. It also had about 2,700 locations in Europe as of October last year.

According to a National Post story, Carrefour, a pioneer in the hypermarket format, has lost ground to competitors in France in recent years and has had mixed results with business ventures in Latin America and China.

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