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    Couche-Tard Could Scoop Up German ExxonMobil Gas Stations

    C-store chain may see Esso stations as an excellent complement to its recent Statoil purchase, news report states.

    LAVAL, Quebec -- Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has stated on several occasions that its acquisition of Scandinavian-based Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA would not be its last in Europe. However, the next acquisition could take place sooner than expected.

    According to the Financial Post in Canada, Couche-Tard, parent of Circle K stores in the United States, could target 1,123 ExxonMobil Corp. Esso gas stations in Germany.

    ExxonMobil has been in discussions to sell the gas station as its CEO, Rex Tillerson, has decided to divest many gas stations and instead focus on oil wells and chemical production, several news outlets have reported.

    As CSNews Online reported yesterday,Russian and Eastern European companies could be interested in purchasing the German gas stations.

    However, Couche-Tard could make a lot of sense as a potential buyer. It has long looked at Germany as a country to acquire gas stations and/or convenience stores. As CSNews Online reported on April 23, Couche-Tard CFO Raymond Parè told the Montreal Gazette that Germany is an excellent place to conduct business.

    "Germany is clearly on our radar and at the top of the list," Paré told the news outlet, adding that the nation's market is as solid as Scandinavia. "We did assess basically almost all the networks in these countries. We know pretty well what we want and what we don't want."

    The biggest obstacle preventing Couche-Tard from buying the Esso gas stations would be the price tag. Media reports state the German gas stations could sell for up to $1.3 billion. Couche-Tard already dished out $2.679 billion to acquire Statoil.

    A group of Barclays analysts still believes the parent of Circle K can make the German Esso deal take place though.

    "They [Couche-Tard] have limited borrowing ability without risking the loss of their investment grade rating, which they have indicated they are prepared to do for the right opportunity," the analysts wrote in a note, as was reported by the Financial Post. "If this acquisition materializes at this time, we believe it would be prudent to issue equity at the expense of immediate term accretion."

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