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    The Pantry in Talks to Buy 16 Sayle Oil Stores

    Completion of the deal is anticipated for April.

    CHARLESTON, Miss. -- CSNews Online has learned that Sanford, N.C.-based The Pantry Inc. is pursuing an acquisition of 16 Sayle Oil convenience stores.

    Sayle Oil president Isaac Sayle told CSNews Online that a deal has not been finalized yet, but he expects the acquisition to be completed in April. After the sale, Charleston, Miss.-based Sayle Oil will continue to operate about 20 c-stores.

    "We are thinking of making some changes, downsizing and then building back up," Sayle told CSNews Online.

    A call to The Pantry for comment was unreturned as of presstime.

    Sayle Oil's Gas Mart convenience stores offer foodservice including Hot Stuff pizza, Chester's Fried Chicken, Pit BBQ and Baskin Robbins ice cream, according to the company's Web site. The chain also operates a wholesale fuel distribution business and supplies Exxon, Mobil, Shell and CITGO-branded fuels, according to the site.

    The Sayle Oil purchase would be one of few for The Pantry since it announced during a financial results conference call in April 2007 that it would slow its acquisition pace.

    "With everything we've already done this year, it's reasonable to assume that the bar has been raised somewhat -- at least for the next couple of quarters -- in terms of the criteria we need to meet before we go ahead with [acquisitions]," The Pantry's chairman and CEO Peter J. Sodini said during the call. "We are not going to stop looking and talking with people, and we absolutely have the financial capacity to do more deals, but our preference would be clearly to slow the pace down for a while."

    The Pantry's most recent financial results, for the first quarter of fiscal 2008, were remarkably improved compared to the results seen around the time it announced the slowed pace. The company reported a 43.2 percent increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2008, reaching $2 billion, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) jumped more than 50 percent to $53.6 million, according to a company statement issued Jan. 31.

    In that same statement, Sodini noted that the chain was still facing challenges, including high gas prices and the softening of consumer spending, and told investors that while the company is still looking at potential acquisitions, the total would be "substantially below" the 152 locations The Pantry acquired in fiscal 2007.

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