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    ACT Clinches Dairy Mart Deal

    No other bidders challenge the Canadian c-store giant.

    HUDSON, Ohio -- Laval, Quebec convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard (ACT) virtually clinched its acquisition of bankrupt Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. yesterday when it was announced that no other qualified bidders submitted offers by Friday's bankruptcy court deadline.

    ACT last month agreed to acquire the 450-store chain for $80 million, thrusting the Canadian chain's store count to more than 2,300 units, including a powerful presence in the Midwest with the Dairy Mart and Bigfoot stores.

    Shortly after the announced agreement, Dairy Mart CEO and President Gregory Landry told CSNews, "Couche-Tard negotiated the most aggressively. They clearly wanted to get a deal done."

    Landry said at the time he expected others to tender offers, but the court said it received no other qualified bids. Expected to close in the upcoming months, the acquisition ensures the survival of most of the Dairy Mart units, as well as the jobs of some 4,000 workers.

    The deal also closes a sad chapter in a company many just two years ago had thought to be on the rebound. After years of multi-million dollar losses, Dairy Mart had divested hundreds of ailing stores, invested in significant upgrades, embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign and rolled out a well-received foodservice program.

    But financial losses continued. Only recently, the company said it expected its fiscal year loss to top $63 million, more than double last year's $29.4 million and equaling the debt two years ago that resulted in a proxy battle by a minority shareholder faction.

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