UPDATE 2-Couche-Tard profit jumps 56 percent, but misses estimates

Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:07pm EDT

Related Topics

* Adjusted EPS 81 cents below 87 cents forecast

* Revenue up 75 pct to $11.57 billion

* U.S. same-store sales up 2.6 percent, excluding tobacco products

* Shares fall as much as 6 percent

By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, March 19 (Reuters) - Convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard reported a 56 percent jump in quarterly profit Tuesday, but results fell short of analysts' estimates, sending shares down as much as 6 percent.

Net income for the third quarter ended Feb. 3 rose to $142.5 million, or 75 cents a share, from $86.8 million, or 48 cents, a year earlier.

Shares were at C$54.63, down 1.7 percent, by late afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They had earlier dropped as low as C$52.35.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard said results were bolstered by its acquisitions, higher margins on fuel and a lower income tax rate. However, higher-than-expected selling expenses and general and administrative costs cut into the company's profit, some analysts said.

"Adjusted earnings were below expectation, especially after considering that earnings were facilitated by a U.S. gas margin that was higher than our estimate and added about $0.10 per share to results," Peter Sklar, an analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said in a note to clients.

Excluding foreign exchange losses and acquisition costs, net earnings were 81 cents a share. Revenue at the Laval, Quebec-based company rose 75 percent to $11.57 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected earnings per share of 87 cents on revenue of $11.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total merchandise and service revenues rose 4.4 percent in the United States and 5.1 percent in Canada. Excluding sales of tobacco, same-store sales rose 2.6 percent in the United States.

The company acquired 60 company-operated or franchised and other affiliated stores during the quarter.

Since the third quarter, it added another 29 company-operated stores last month in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, from Dickerson Petroleum Inc. Couche-Tard owns the land and buildings for 25 sites and leases the remainder.

Couche-Tard operates more than 6,100 convenience stores in its network in North America, most of which sell fuel, under banners that include Mac's and Circle K.

Thanks to its recent acquisition of Norway's Statoil Fuel & Retail, the company now also operates more than 2,300 fuel stations in Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltics and Russia, most of which sell convenience goods.

Sklar noted the company provided limited segmented disclosure for Statoil and no comparable results, making it difficult to assess the performance of its European operations.

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