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May 19, 2017

Couche-Tard co-founder plots Asian expansion

Couche-Tard founder gets serious about Asian expansion

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The co-founder of Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATDb.TO) is plotting his course for further Asian expansion. In an interview on BNN, Alain Bouchard said he wants to put his own cash to work in the Far East to augment the company’s existing licensing strategy.

“Obviously, we would like to be in Asia with our own equity, which is not the case right now,” he said. “Our goal in the next five years is to be in Asia with our own equity on the ground with one of our actual partners or with others.”

The Quebec-based convenience store giant currently licenses its Circle K banner in 13 countries worldwide, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines, all of which boast rapid economic growth and a growing middle class. In spite of his enthusiasm for the region, Bouchard said the company will not be hasty in its expansion in order to avoid costly missteps.

“[We’ll expand] with prudence: we’re careful,” he said. “We see big opportunities in some Asian countries right now.”

The company is going head-to-head with Japan’s Seven & i Holdings, which operates the 7-Eleven banner. The two heavyweights jockey for dominance in many markets, a competition which has grown more pitched as Couche-Tard has gone on an acquisition spree, including the US$3.8 billion deal for Texas-based CST brands in 2016.



Bouchard said he began to feel the itch for international expansion after the company started to grow outside of its Quebec home base.

“After we were across the country here, it was clear to me my next goal was the U.S. and eventually on other continents,” he said. “That’s just about what you know, and what you’re good at.”

In spite of boasting a worldwide network of nearly 12,100 stores stemming in part from six major acquisitions since 2004, Bouchard says there’s still work to be done in expanding the company.

“I didn’t dream [of] something as big as we’ve become,” he said. “[We will have] 115,000 employees and $50 billion in sales: so that’s bigger than I thought in the beginning, but I’m not done.”