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    Susser to Rebrand T&C, Grow Organically

    The company detailed plans for growth in its fourth quarter 2007 financial statement, which revealed record performance, helped from Town & Country.

    CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Susser Holdings Corp., operator of the Stripes and Town & Country Food Stores convenience store chains, detailed its plans to grow the company -- including sale/leasebacks to fund new store construction and a rebranding initiative for its recently acquired Town & Country locations -- during its fourth quarter 2007 financial statement.

    On the acquisition front, the company opened nine new retail units, bringing the total number of stores built or acquired in 2007 to 186, which was split between 18 new retail stores and the 168 acquired Town & Country stores, the company reported. Also during the quarter, the company closed four locations, bringing the total store count to 504 as of Dec. 30, 2007, according to the company. Since year-end, the company opened three stores.

    This summer, Susser plans to rebrand two to three Town & Country locations to the Stripes banner, as a test program in West Texas before rolling out a rebranding program for all Town & Country locations, which is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008, the company stated.

    An estimated two-thirds of the 16 to 22 new stores being built in 2008 for Susser are planned for the company’s southern region -- including South Texas/Rio Grande Valley areas – while the remaining third are planned for the western region, made up of West Texas/Eastern New Mexico, the company stated. The new locations are expected to be primarily financed through sale/leaseback transactions of new locations, according to the company.

    In its wholesale operations, Susser added 13 new dealer locations, while dropping three during the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of wholesale operations to 387 by the end of 2007, the company stated.

    As previously reported, the company signed new grocery/merchandise and beverage suppliers contracts, and continues to negotiate new combined supply agreements with more merchandise vendors and improve its fuel supply chain in its new markets, according to the company.

    Meanwhile, Susser saw a "super 2007," said Susser President and CEO Sam L. Susser in a conference call to investors. Its total revenue for the fourth quarter of 2007 climbed 68.6 percent to a record $821.9 million, versus $487.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2006, the company stated.

    "Looking at the fourth quarter of 2007, our merchandise segment continued to benefit from the marketing and store operations programs we began in early 2007, which drove customer traffic and transaction size," said Susser in a statement. "Same-store sales growth from Stripes stores was the highest we've seen in eight years. Retail fuel sales also benefited from the higher traffic, and retail fuel margins were roughly a nickel a gallon higher than they were a year ago. The contribution of Town & Country for the last seven weeks of the quarter further boosted our financial and operating metrics across the board."

    The company reversed its earnings in the quarter, recording a net income of $7.5 million for the quarter, compared to a net loss of $10.9 million in the year-ago period, according to the company. The year-over-year improvement during in a typically weak quarter reflected an 11.7 percent same-store merchandise sales increase, higher merchandise margins and significantly stronger fuel margins, along with the contribution from Town & Country, the company stated.

    In a conference call with investors, Susser explained that the chain's markets are tied to tourism and warm weather activities, and "people just don't buy as many sodas, beer or snacks when it's cold outside," he said.

    Fourth quarter merchandise sales, which include approximately seven weeks of contribution from Town & Country, jumped 54.1 percent to $136.7 million from the $88.7 million seen a year earlier with the stand-alone Susser operation, according to the company.

    Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) soared 189 percent to $17 million, versus $5.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2006, due to the Town & Country contribution and improved results from merchandise and significantly higher combined retail fuel margins at 14.1 cents per gallon compared to 9.2 cents per gallon seen in the year-ago period, the company stated.

    On the acquisition front, the company opened nine new retail units, bringing the total number of stores built or acquired in 2007 to 186, which was split between 18 new retail stores and the 168 acquired Town & Country stores, the company reported. Also during the quarter, the company closed four locations, bringing the total store count to 504 as of Dec. 30, 2007, according to the company. Since year-end, the company opened three stores.

    In its wholesale operations, Susser added 13 new dealer locations, while dropping three during the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of wholesale operations to 387 by the end of 2007, the company stated.

    As previously reported, the company signed new grocery/merchandise and beverage suppliers contracts, and continues to negotiate new combined supply agreements with more merchandise vendors and improve its fuel supply chain in its new markets, according to the company.

    This summer, Susser plans to rebrand two to three Town & Country locations to the Stripes banner, as a test program in West Texas before rolling out a rebranding program for all Town & Country locations, which is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008, the company stated.

    An estimated two-thirds of the new stores being built in 2008 for Susser are planned for the company's southern region -- including South Texas/Rio Grande Valley areas -- while the remaining third are planned for the western region, made up of West Texas/Eastern New Mexico, the company stated. The new locations are expected to be primarily financed through sale/leaseback transactions of new locations, according to the company.

    "2007 was an outstanding year for Susser Holdings," said Susser. "We saw very strong gains in our merchandise segment and higher-than-average retail fuel margins for the year. We doubled the size of our pro forma adjusted EBITDA through the acquisition of Town & Country Food Stores, which gave us a leadership position in attractive markets in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico as well as opportunities to realize operating leverage and cost synergies across the combined companies."

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