UPDATE 3-Couche-Tard profit jumps on margins, sales

* EPS 37 cents vs 20 cents

* Adjusted EPS 29 cents vs estimate 26 cents

* Revenue rises 34 pct to $4 bln vs $2.99 bln

* Shares up 3 percent
(Updates with conference call. In U.S. dollars unless noted.)

By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, July 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc
(ATDb.TO: ), a convenience store operator seeking to buy Casey’s
General Stores Inc (CASY.O: ), said on Tuesday quarterly earnings
rose 81 percent on higher gasoline margins and strong sales
growth.

Both profit and revenue at Couche-Tard, North America’s
largest independent convenience store operator, topped analyst
forecasts, pushing its shares up more than 3 percent.

The company, which operates in Canada and the United States
under the Couche-Tard, Mac’s and Circle K banners, said
merchandise sales in stores opened at least one year, or
same-stores-sales, rose 6.9 percent in Canada and 3.2 percent
in the United States.

The profit gain “was basically driven by stronger fuel
margins and very impressive same-store sales growth,
particularly on the merchandise side in Canada …” said
Canaccord Genuity analyst Derek Dley.

“We think the company is going to continue to gain market
share,” he said.

Dley said he expects further same-store sales growth going
forward but sees investors more likely to be focused on
acquisition activity.

Couche-Tard, which operates more than 5,800 convenience
stores in Canada and the United States, extended its $1.85
billion takeover offer for Casey’s until Aug. 6. Casey’s
stockholders tendered 20 percent of the shares by the original
deadline of midnight, July 9. [nSGE66B0G5]

“We remain committed to making this combination a reality
and will not be discouraged by Casey’s efforts to distract its
shareholders with these baseless claims,” Chief Executive Alain
Bouchard said during a webcast on Tuesday.

Casey’s, which operates over 1,500 stores in nine
Midwestern states, filed a complaint last month against
Couche-Tard alleging market manipulation. According to the
filing, Couche-Tard accumulated about 3.9 percent of Casey’s
shares before its April 9 bid. Shortly after Couche-Tard
announced its cash offer of $36 a share, it sold almost all of
its shares for $38.43 each. [nN11169357]

Bouchard said Casey’s filed a motion on Monday to dismiss
the counter-claim Couche-Tard submitted on June 18.

Couche-Tard declined to answer any questions on the Casey’s
bid during the webcast.

“Aside from Casey’s, there are a number of attractive
acquisition opportunities out there, and the company is well
positioned to grow both through acquisition as well as
organically, namely on the merchandise side as it continues to
leverage its merchandise mix,” Dley said.

BY THE NUMBERS

Earnings rose to $68.8 million, or 37 cents a share, in
Couche-Tard’s fourth quarter ended April 25. That compares with
profit of $38 million, or 20 cents, for the same period a year
earlier.

Excluding one-time gains, profit came in at 29 cents a
share, ahead of analysts’ forecasts of 26 cents a share,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose about 34 percent to $4 billion from $2.99
billion, also higher than expected.

Same-store gasoline volume climbed 4.2 percent in Canada
and fell 0.7 percent in the United States. The slight drop in
U.S. volume was the industry norm for the quarter, according to
Dley.

Gasoline gross margins were up 2.83 cents a gallon in the
United States. Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard sells gasoline
at about 80 percent of its locations.

Couche-Tard shares closed 64 Canadian cents higher, or 3.2
percent, at C$20.50 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

(Reporting by Solarina Ho)

UPDATE 3-Couche-Tard profit jumps on margins, sales