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    Couche-Tard, Shell Oil Plan Retail Joint Venture

    The proposed venture would operate approximately 100 convenience stores in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

    LAVAL, Quebec -- Through a wholly owned subsidiary, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. plans to enter into an agreement to create a joint venture with Shell Oil Products US, which would operate approximately 100 convenience stores in the greater Chicago metropolitan area, Couche-Tard stated.

    Of the 100 stores within the proposed venture, 89 are currently operated by third party operators under an operator agreement with Shell, which also includes 32 Circle K stores operated by Couche-Tard's Midwest Division. The remaining 11 locations currently operate as Shell retail marketers under a retail lease agreement, according to Couche-Tard.

    "These stores are located in the third largest city in the U.S.," Darrell Davis, vice president operations, Circle K Midwest Division, said in a statement. "Strategically, this acquisition would be a complement to our expansion and growth plans for the Midwest Division. In addition to being an excellent fit within our current operating framework, it would also provide a much larger presence and would allow us to more easily target our growth in the greater Chicago metropolitan area."

    A call to Couche-Tard for more information was unreturned by press time.

    The majority of the 100 stores would be operated by Couche-Tard's Midwest Division under the Circle K banner, the Canadian retailer stated. Shell fuels and branded products would continue to be marketed at all 100 locations, and the 100 locations held by Shell would be transferred to the joint venture through a combination of purchased and contributed fee and lease sites, the company stated.

    The transaction is subject to final management approvals from both companies, standard regulatory approvals and closing conditions. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2009.

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