Couche-Tard profit beats on higher grocery demand, lower fuel costs

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past a Couche-Tard convenience store in Montreal, April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

(Reuters) - Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc's ATDb.TO quarterly earnings beat estimates on Tuesday, as customers spent more on groceries at its stores, while a fall in fuel prices boosted profit margins at its gas stations.

Increased fears of the novel coronavirus led people to make fewer trips to its stores, consolidate their shopping and opt for home-delivery and curbside pickups.

Revenue from Couche-Tard’s merchandise and services unit that sells food products and everyday essentials rose 7% to $3.86 billion in the first quarter, with gross profit rising 7.5%.

Net income attributable to the company rose 44.2% to $777.1 million, or an adjusted 71 cents per share, in the first quarter ended July 19, beating analysts’ estimates of 40 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Gross profits in the company’s fuel business rose 13.1% due to lower oil prices.

However, a coronavirus-led slump in fuel demand brought Couche-Tard’s total revenue down 31.4% to $9.71 billion.

The company said demand was beginning to recover, especially in Europe where travel patterns were normalizing.

Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi