Alimentation Couche-Tard is a leading Canadian company operating convenience and fuel retail stores worldwide. It is the largest convenience store operator in the United States by the number of business-run stores.
Alimentation Couche-Tard operates more than 14,200 stores in North America and Europe and operates in more than 26 countries and territories. The company operates well-known brands such as Couche-Tard, Circle K and Ingo. Couche-Tard supplies fuel for road transportation to approximately 1,300 locations in the United States and provides stationary energy and aviation fuel.
The company serves over 9 million customers worldwide every day, offering them goods and services (~ 27% of sales), fuel (71%) and others (1%). The company is a leading supplier in Canada, Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Ireland and has offices in Poland and Hong Kong.
As the leading independent convenience store operator, Couche-Tard has a coast-to-coast presence in Canada and is located in 47 US states. Geographically, the USA is the largest market with a ~ 70% share of sales, followed by Europe (18%) and Canada (12%). The company operates worldwide through the Couche-Tard and Mac brands in Canada and Circle K.
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Sales growth and market presence
Couche-Tard started with just one store four decades ago and today has a successful chain of convenience stores in 26 countries with a recognized brand name. The Circle K brand enjoys a good reputation with a loyal customer base in Scandinavian and Baltic countries. With nearly four decades of experience, Couche-Tard has adapted to changing customer habits and preferences.
Food, beverage, car washes, and fuel are Couche-Tard’s main product categories. The car wash is an important business in more than 2,600 locations worldwide. With the acquisitions of Esso and Holiday, the presence of car washes in North America was further expanded. The company handles approximately 130,000 car washes and sells approximately 41 million gallons of fuel daily.
Alimentation Couche-Tard is expanding globally due to its successful diversified businesses. The company has a market share of only 5% in the US, which leaves plenty of room for future expansion. The company offers numerous opportunities to diversify and sell its products.
Alimentation Couche-Tard’s fuel business is one of the other successful companies. It is also expanding its grocery store. Alimentation acquired seven company-operated stores in the last quarter and completed the construction of 13 stores and the move of 10 stores.
The company is investing in technology to digitize its supply chain and other business areas to improve the overall customer experience. Alimentation expects future growth from Asia and has completed the acquisition of Circle K HK in this regard.
Nutrition saw a sharp drop in traffic and fuel volumes due to pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders in the US, Europe, and Canada. Fuel volumes remained adversely affected in areas with persistent closures, while other areas grew stronger as the year progressed.
The company continued its efforts to rename Circle K and aims to establish itself as an innovative retailer. Alimentation has also made good progress on its food development goals and is expanding its fast priority fresh food program to an additional 3,000 stores in the near future. There is a pipeline of 66 branches under construction that are due to open in the coming quarters. The company has also rolled out the Circle K Fuel branded loyalty program in all US markets, offering daily discounts to customers.
Alimentation is well positioned to generate sales growth in goods while adapting to the changing shopping habits of its customers, e.g. B. larger average basket sizes, consolidated trips and customized product offerings. The company expects the demand for tobacco, packaged beverages, alcohol and food to continue to grow.
Alimentation Couche-Tard is a Canadian dividend aristocrat. The company continued to return cash to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks. The dividend yield is a modest 0.85%, while the payout ratio is very low at 11%. Couche-Tard has increased its dividend payout to ~ 22% CAGR over the past decade and its most recent dividend increase was 25%. Since 2011, the dividend has increased more than sevenfold.
Alimentation’s strong cash flow generation supports future growth plans. The company ended the quarter with a strong financial position. Well-diversified activities in different regions, a strong focus on growing, high-margin categories and the scalable launch of the new global convenience brand Circle K should drive growth and support future dividend increases. The company continues to transition to a single global brand with 86% of US stores, all European stores, and 89% of Canadian stores currently operating under the Circle K global brand.
The convenience store sector in the US is highly fragmented and Alimentation is well positioned to benefit from increased acquisition activity. The company is growing both organically and through acquisitions and has a solid track record of acquisitions and synergies over the past decade. Since 2004, the company has added more than 10,200 stores worldwide. The number of branches has increased rapidly from just 500 branches two decades ago to over 14,000.
The pricing, advertising and range of goods, the profitable ramp-up of stores and the convenience offer in places with high pedestrian traffic should support the business of Alimentation Couche-Tard.
Nutrition Couche-Tard faces intense competition both locally and internationally from convenience store chains, petrol station operators, food retailers, QSRs, pharmacy chains, etc. In Europe and Canada, the convenience store sector is dominated by a few key players and it will be difficult for newcomers to compete with Couche-Tard’s operational scale and large geographic footprint. The company occupies a leading market position in most of the markets it serves.
George Weston, Loblaw Companies, North West Company, and Metro Inc. are Alimentation Couche-Tard’s top competitors. Unlike its competitors, Couche-Tard’s business is relatively immune to the significant growth of ecommerce companies like Amazon.com, as most goods are consumed within an hour of purchase.
Sales of consumer staples have increased in the last two recessions. Due to its large scale and geographical diversification, Alimentation is well positioned to offset the headwinds in the industry. The company has a solid track record of successful synergies from transformative acquisitions and has a solid pipeline of current opportunity. The company’s strong cash flows support its investment and growth plans. The company also offers significant growth opportunities around the world, with a focus on the US and Asia.
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