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LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is once again growing its reach across Europe, this time in Ireland.
The Laval-based retailer has signed, through one of its wholly owned indirect subsidiaries, an agreement to acquire Topaz. The deal calls for Couche-Tard to purchase the majority share capital — more than 99.86 percent — of both Topaz Energy Group Limited (TEGL) and Resource Property Investment Fund plc (RPIF), together with the entire share capital of Esso Ireland Limited.
The minority shareholders of TEGL and RPIF will be invited to take part in the same opportunity. This acquisition would position Couche-Tard as the leading convenience and fuel retailer in Ireland.
Topaz is the leading convenience and fuel retailer in Ireland, made up of 464 stations across the country, including its recently acquired Esso station network. Of these stations, 162 are owned by Topaz and 302 are owned by dealers. The agreement also encompasses a commercial fuels operation with more than 30 depots and two owned terminals.
"In 2012, we declared that Statoil Fuel & Retail would be our platform for growth in Europe. This agreement to acquire Topaz's network and assets, our second announcement in Europe this year following the Danish Shell deal, would allow us to add yet another high-quality network to our operations," said Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard.
"Ireland has been on an extraordinary journey over the past decade. We have been looking at this market for several years. With the addition of Topaz, we would expand our geographic footprint into what, today, is one of Europe's best-performing economies," he added.
The transaction is anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of Couche-Tard's fiscal year 2016 and is subject to the usual regulatory approvals and closing conditions. It would be financed using Couche-Tard's available cash and existing credit facilities. The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price for this acquisition.
"As part of the larger Couche-Tard merchant family, and with the strong, global Circle K brand in our portfolio, we are well-equipped to take on this significant market," said Jacob Schram, Couche-Tard's group president Europe.
"Topaz would be a great strategic fit for Couche-Tard and it would strengthen our position in Western Europe. It has an extensive and attractive convenience and fuel network, with good locations, quality forecourts and stores, an excellent food offering and very professional teams. We look forward to welcoming Topaz into our family," Schram added.
AN AWARD-WINNING CHAIN
Earlier this year, Topaz won the NACS Insight 2015 International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award for its Re.Store convenience forecourt concept. Topaz opened Re.Store in January at its Manor Stone Ballacolla forecourt, located at junction 3 on the M8 Dublin to Cork Motorway.
NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, singled out Topaz's Re.Store for its impressive array of foodservice items. Customers can choose from a variety of fresh options such as salads and sandwiches, as well as gluten-free foods and protein-rich porridge pots. The store's coffee program, complete with trained baristas, is also a key contributor to Re.Store's bottom line, accounting for one-third of coffee sales, as CSNews Online previously reported.
"The last two years have been a period of phenomenal development and improvement for the company. With the steadfast support of the board, our management and staff, we have established a well-capitalized group of growing businesses which, with the recent amalgamation of Esso in Ireland, is the undoubted industry leader," said John Callaghan, Topaz's chairman.
Couche-Tard will build on the foundation Topaz has put in place and bring a new dimension to the industry in Ireland to the benefit of the economy, its customers and its staff, Callaghan continued.
Describing the transaction as a "game changer" for the retail sector in Ireland, Topaz Chief Executive Emmet O'Neill added: "Couche-Tard is one of the strongest names in retail in the world and their presence in Ireland will transform the retail sector here. I am thrilled that they have chosen Topaz as the foundation for their entry to the Irish market. They will bring enormous skill, energy and resources to this business and this market."
O'Neill noted that this deal follows a transformation of the company over the past two years. "In the last two years, Topaz has moved from being a challenged business to one which has been transformed at every level and which now leads the market here. We have refinanced the company, upgraded the infrastructure, acquired and built new sites and convenience stores, and ultimately acquired the business of Esso in Ireland," he explained. "Today's transaction is a reflection of the immense effort made by everyone on the team and across the company over that time."
As of Oct. 11, Couche-Tard's network comprised approximately 8,006 convenience stores throughout North America, including 6,579 stores offering road transportation fuel. Its North American network consists of 15 business units, including 11 in the United States covering 41 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces. In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a broad retail network across Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Denmark), Poland, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Russia. As at Oct. 11, its European network comprised 2,217 stores, the majority of which offer road transportation fuel and convenience products while the others are unmanned automated service stations that offer road transportation fuel only.
In addition, about 4,700 stores are operated by independent operators under the Circle K banner in 14 other countries or regions worldwide.