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    Couche-Tard Cooks Up Deal for 13 Richcor Stores

    'Circle K recipe' will be introduced to the sites located in the south Florida region.

    LAVAL, Quebec -- Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., through its subsidiary Circle K Stores, signed an agreement to purchase 13 stores in the Pensacola, Fla. market from Richcor, Inc.

    As reported first by CSNews Online yesterday, the convenience stores currently operate under the Groovin Noovin banner, are all company-operated and have Shell-branded gasoline. Richcor's total sales for 2005 were approximately $50 million.

    "The stores are in our regions of operation in the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are strategically located in the Florida panhandle, which is our key market. It's a perfect fit," Stephane Gonthier, Couche-Tard's senior vice-president of Eastern North America, told CSNews Online.

    Once completed, the stores will be rebranded to the Circle K banner, while the Shell-branded gas will be maintained. "We will introduce our best practices, marketing, merchandising and bring the Circle K recipe and anything that comes with our brand to the stores," Gunthier said. The company will buy the land and buildings for all 13 locations.

    Ten of the stores have quick-service restaurants; of those, nine have a proprietary foodservice operation called Down Home Deli, and one is home to a branded Subway location operated under a franchise agreement. Richor's foodservice operations have been very successful, Gunthier told CSNews Online. Couche-Tard plans to "maintain those operations and learn from Richor's experience, niche marketing and best practices. Any we find we will take," he added.

    As the Gulf Coast area of Florida is an important market for Couche-Tard, more acquisitions can be expected in the future. "We do have that fill-in strategy for real estate development. We do intend to increase number of locations in panhandle and West coast of Florida," said Gunthier.

    With the acquisition, Couche-Tard's network in the Florida and Gulf region includes 669 company-operated stores and 64 dealer operated sites, Mick Parker, vice president of operations for Couche-Tard's Florida-Gulf Division said in a written statement. "These stores are located on highly visible and well-traveled roads and occupy strategic locations within their respective trade area. Strategically, these acquisitions would be an excellent fit with our current network in Pensacola, Fla. and would complement our expansion and growth plans in the Florida-Gulf region," he said.

    The transaction is expected to close in February, and will add to Couche-Tard's revenues and contribute to its earnings on an annualized basis. The transaction is subject to standard regulatory approvals and closing conditions. Due to a confidentiality agreement between both parties, the purchase price was not disclosed. Internal available cash dollars will pay for the transaction.

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