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    7-Eleven Celebrates Amid Questions

    Minority shareholders push for increased stock value.

    NEW YORK -- 7-Eleven Inc., the venerable convenience store chain, kicks off its 75th anniversary this evening with a reception at New York's Ellis Island.

    But as the chain, with 5,800 units in the United States and Canada, touts its accomplishments, 7-Eleven faces new pressures from minority shareholders to boost its stock value, which has plunged by more than 35 percent this year.

    Faced with stiffer outside competition and depressed gasoline margins, 7-Eleven has increasingly tapped technology and a ramped up foodservice program to yield higher returns. But in an Associated Press story yesterday, company CEO Jim Keyes acknowledged, "we're not at the top of people's minds for fresh food," noting fresh food accounts for about 5 percent of sales.

    Keyes, who took over company reins in 2000, is hopeful that new offerings, from in-store kiosks called Vcom, to fresh food rollouts like Big Eats Deli sandwiches, will raise profits and, ultimately, enhance the company's appeal to Wall Street investors.

    Festivities continue tomorrow on Wall Street as Keyes will ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange, where he will likely face scrutiny from investors who want the company to boost earnings to fall in line with previous Wall Street estimates.

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