Couche-Tard Soars on Offer to Buy Statoil Fuel

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ATD/B) rose the most in more than eight years after agreeing to buy Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA (SFR), Scandinavia’s biggest gas-station operator, for 15.9 billion kroner ($2.8 billion) to push into European markets.

Couche-Tard, the largest independent convenience store operator in North America, rose 15 percent to close at C$39.60 in Toronto, the biggest increase since Oct. 6, 2003.

The cash offer of 53 kroner a share represents a 53 percent premium for Statoil Fuel & Retail, the Laval, Quebec-based company said today in a statement. Statoil ASA (STL), Norway’s biggest oil and gas producer, has agreed to sell its 54 percent stake in the company.

“For us it’s great timing to enter this market, knowing Europe eventually will solve their financial issues,” Chief Executive Officer Alain Bouchard said at a press conference in Oslo.

This would be Couche-Tard’s largest takeover since at least 1999, according data compiled by Bloomberg, surpassing its $830 million purchase of Circle K Stores Inc. in the U.S. in 2003.

Statoil Fuel, which has 2,300 convenience stations across Scandinavia, the Baltics, Poland and Russia, was taken public by Statoil in 2010 through a $920 million offering. The company had net income of 1.1 billion kroner last year, down from 1.6 billion kroner. Sales rose 12 percent to 74 billion kroner.

Photographer: Linus Hook/Bloomberg

Branded flags fly outside a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo. Close

Branded flags fly outside a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo.

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Photographer: Linus Hook/Bloomberg

Branded flags fly outside a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo.

‘Fair Price’

Statoil Fuel shares rose 17.75 kroner, or 51 percent, to 52.5 kroner in Oslo. Before the offer, the shares had declined 22 percent this year, adding to a 16 percent decline in 2011.

“It’s a fair price,” said Ivar Andreas Lemmechen Gjul, an analyst with Fondsfinans ASA in Oslo. “Statoil Fuel & Retail will provide them with a very strong footprint in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.”

Couche-Tard will gain access to consumers in regions where growth is expanding faster than in the struggling 17-nation euro area. The Nordic economies are estimated to grow 1 percent, on average, this year the International Monetary Fund said yesterday, and have emerged as a haven amid Europe’s debt turmoil.

The company said the deal will be “immediately and significantly accretive” to earnings per share and will give it a presence in “profitable and resilient Scandinavian countries,” according to the statement.

The company will keep the Statoil brand for more than nine years.

New Credit Line

Couche-Tard has a network of 5,800 convenience stores in 42 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces. It unsuccessfully tried to buy U.S. Convenience chain Casey’s General Stores Inc. (CASY) in 2010 in an offer valued at about $1.42 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Photographer: Linus Hook/Bloomberg

Customers enter the retail store at a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo. Close

Customers enter the retail store at a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo.

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Photographer: Linus Hook/Bloomberg

Customers enter the retail store at a gas station, operated by Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA, in Malmo.

The offer will start no later than April 23, pending approval from the Oslo exchange. The offer period will be 20 days.

Statoil “has accepted the 53 kroner to show commitment to the other shareholders,” Lemmechen Gjul said. “It will focus more on getting the deal through than pushing the deal further.”

Couche-Tard expects to use its existing credit lines and a new 3-year $3.2 billion acquisition credit line to finance the offer, the company said.

Couche-Tard was advised by National Bank Financial, UBS AG, Scotiabank, HSBC Holdings Plc, Rabobank International and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Statoil Fuel was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA. (ASC)

To contact the reporters on this story: Doug Alexander in Toronto at dalexander3@bloomberg.net; Stephen Treloar in Oslo at streloar1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net

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