Couche-Tard founder quits as president and CEO

Couche-Tard founder Alain Bouchard.
Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The founder of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is handing off the role of president and chief executive officer to another senior member of the company's management team.

Alain Bouchard will stay involved as executive chairman of the Montreal-area company, which has become one of North America's largest operators of convenience stores and gasoline retail outlets during three decades of his leadership.

The management transition, which will go into effect in September, was announced shortly before Couche-Tard issued its financial results for the 16 weeks ended Feb. 2.

The Laval-based company, which reports in U.S. currency, said it had 96 cents per share of diluted earnings, up from 75 cents a year before, while adjusted diluted net earnings rose to 92 cents from 81 cents in the third quarter of fiscal 2013.

The earnings were ahead of the general estimate of 93 cents per share of adjusted earnings and 88 cents per share of net income, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"The third quarter earnings benefited from strong organic growth from merchandise and services as well as from road transportation fuel across all of our markets despite unfavourable weather in several of our markets, fewer number of days from our European operations included in our net earnings and the negative impact from foreign currency translation into the U.S. dollar," Bouchard said.

"We also benefited from the contribution from recent acquisitions."

Couche-Tard is one of North America's largest convenience store operators with 6,207 locations under the Couche-Tard, Mac's and Circle K brands. In Europe, Couche-Tard operates 2,276 Statoil Fuel & Retail stores across Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltics and Russia.

The company announced Tuesday that Bouchard will be succeeded as president and CEO by Brian Hannasch, who has been Couche-Tard's chief operating officer.

The changes become effective in September at the annual shareholders meeting.

"I have had the privilege of realizing a life-long dream," Bouchard said in a statement Tuesday before speaking with analysts.

"I see this change as an evolution. It will let me invest more of my time in acquisitions and new industry opportunities," he added. "I will also take part in the strategic discussions and serve as a mentor and coach to our next generation of leaders."

Couche-Tard said its net earnings rose to US$182.3 million during the fiscal third quarter, while operating income rose to US$234.5 million.

Both were increases from the third quarter of fiscal 2013, when Couche-Tard had $142.2 million of net earnings and $208.9 million of operating income.

Total revenue was down 3.3 per cent from a year earlier, falling to $11.09 billion from $11.47 billion in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Couche-Tard said the decline was partly due to the divestiture of its European liquefied petroleum gas business in December 2012.

Its revenue also felt the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar, which reduced the value of sales in Canadian and European currencies after translation, as well as lower retail fuel prices in the United States.

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