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Thursday, September 21, 2017

After gobbling up convenience-store chains in North America and Europe, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has its eyes on Asia where it is seeking to enter the Thai and Indian markets, according to a Bloomberg report.

Co-founder and chairman Alain Bouchard told shareholders on Tuesday that the Canadian company is crafting a strategy for the two countries while also looking for ways to increase its presence in southern China, where Couche-Tard has a foothold through licensing agreements but doesn’t operate stores.

Couche-Tard, which started with one store in a Montreal suburb in 1980, will soon have a footprint in 48 U.S. states and Europe. Some investors are wondering what will drive Couche-Tard’s growth given sluggish demand in parts of the U.S. and threats to gasoline consumption posed by the rise of electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The company is digesting a string of purchases, including CST Brands, which gave it a stronghold in Texas but also exposed it to Hurricane Harvey last month.

As of July 23, the company had almost 13,500 locations in North America and Europe, most of which combine a store and gas station. It also had about 1,700 Circle K stores under licensing agreements from Vietnam to Costa Rica.

On Tuesday, Bouchard also expressed doubts that he and the company's three other founders will be able to maintain control of the retailer as the expiration of their special stock rights nears, according to a Globe and Mail report. "There aren't a lot of solutions here" to maintain the founders' ownership, Bouchard said. "We've tried. I'm not optimistic.”

Bouchard and co-founders Richard Fortin, Real Plourde and Jacques D'Amours control Couche-Tard through a special class of multiple voting shares that carry 10 votes each. Under a sunset clause written in 1995, those special voting rights were set to expire in 2021 when the youngest of the founders, D'Amours, will turn 65. The other founders are older.


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