LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. CEO Brian Hannasch reassured investors and the media Wednesday that the sudden resignation of chief financial officer Raymond Paré doesn’t signal a financial problem or disagreement within the convenience-store company, according to a report by the Canadian Press.
The company announced Paré’s resignation unexpectedly late Tuesday. He said he intends to pursue other interests and to spend more time with his family.
“There are no accounting irregularities or we would have disclosed those,” CEO Brian Hannasch said during the call.
He said the company continues to perform well and is supported by a very strong financial team.
Paré has been with the Couche-Tard for 13 years, including about seven as CFO. Hannasch will handle financial and investor issues until the company finds a replacement, while Pare will remain available to ensure a smooth transition.
Both men said the resignation, which had been in discussion for several weeks, wasn’t prompted by any internal disagreement over big moves made in recent years.
“Ray has been an intimate part of all those key decisions and been very much aligned,” Hannasch said.
He said Pare was instrumental in the company’s growth through key acquisitions including Statoil Fuel & Retail in northern Europe and The Pantry in the United States.
Pare declined to disclose his next career move but said he remains a “very big believer” in Couche-Tard.
“The culture, the DNA of the company is well-established and I have no doubt … that the trend of the success of this company will continue,” he said.
Hannasch doesn’t expect the search for Pare’s replacement will take long, said the report, and he and gave assurances that the process won’t slow its acquisition activities.
Given the company’s growth, Couche-Tard will be looking for someone who has a more strategic outlook than would have been the case 15 years ago, he said.
“Ideally if we can find someone bilingual, that would be one of our key search criteria, but there are a lot of attributes we’re looking for, and we’re open to where they come from as long as they can fill those attributes,” said Hannasch.
“If there was any wrongdoing, it would have to be disclosed immediately, and that clearly has not happened,” Michael Van Aelst, an analyst with TD Securities Inc., Montreal, wrote in a research note. “Moreover, we spoke to both Mr. Paré and [Hannasch] last night and, although neither would provide guidance, both made it clear that the CFO’s resignation was not a reflection of operational issues—which we believe trends remain strong—and would not detract from M&A activity … as the company has a very experienced M&A team. As a result, nothing we heard or interpreted would lead us to believe that the CFO’s resignation should alter our outlook or forecasts; yet, the stock is likely to go down initially regardless on speculation.”
He added, “Both parties indicated that Mr. Paré was parting on good terms and remains available to facilitate a smooth transition while the company undertakes the process of identifying a successor. Considering the company’s size, outlook and track record of growth, we expect a large pool of interested and qualified candidates.”
Analyst Irene Nattel of RBC Capital Markets said Pare’s sudden departure is not “optimal” but shouldn’t be viewed as a signal of “anything untoward” in the company’s financial statements.
“Rather we would interpret it as not unusual within the context of a new CEO, particularly as Couche-Tard embarks on the integration of The Pantry and the imminent closing of the previously announced agreement to acquire Shell’s convenience-store assets in Denmark,” she wrote in a note.
Derek Dley of Canaccord Genuity said that despite Pare’s departure, the company’s fundamentals remain strong with sizable acquisition opportunities demonstrated by the just-announced acquisition of 18 Texas Star convenience stores in Texas.
Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.’s network includes nearly 8,000 convenience stores throughout North America, including more than 6,500 offering fuel. The network consists of 15 business units, including 11 in the United States (under the Circle K and The Pantry’s Kangaroo Express brands) covering 41 states and four in Canada (under the Couche-Tard, Mac’s and Circle K brands) covering all 10 provinces.
In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a retail network of more than 2,200 sites across Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Denmark), Poland, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Russia. And independent operators run approximately 4,700 Circle K stores in China, Guam, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, bringing to nearly 15,000 the number of sites in Couche-Tard’s global network.
The company recently announced that it will rebrand all of its stores in all markets to a new Circle K brand (with the exception of the Couche-Tard c-stores in Quebec).