Expect the big to get bigger. According to Dennis Ruben, executive managing director of Chicago-based NRC Realty & Capital Advisors LLC, large players such as 7-Eleven and Couche-Tard have been relatively quiet in 2013 but are looking to grow.
While execs from Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. declined comment on 2014 growth plans, company spokesperson Margaret Chabris shared the following with CSP: “7-Eleven Inc. plans to continue adding stores in the U.S. in 2014 through organic and acquisition growth with a disciplined approach designed to take advantage of opportunities we find.”
Another area of activity: retailers connected to master limited partnerships (MLP) such as Susser Petroleum Partners, Lehigh Gas Partners LP and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) LP. Indeed, in November 2013, Susser picked up nearly 70 sites in Texas, while ETP grabbed Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores’ 300-site network.
And following longer-term trends, major oil has shrugged off its retail ties while refiner-marketers such as Marathon Petroleum and Valero are poised for a growth spurt. “I think they’ll maybe really ramp up again,” Ruben says of the latter.
“Over the three-year period of 2014 through 2016, Speedway currently plans to add approximately 60 to 65 new-build or rebuild stores each year, with the majority being new-build stores,” Speedway president Tony Kenney told CSP. “On average, Speedway plans to invest more than $300 million per year in capital expenditures over that same three-year time period.” There is no ideal mix of acquisitions vs. new builds, he says; it instead depends upon the value the investment would bring. “Our capital is focused on organic projects in our existing and new contiguous markets. We will always look at high-quality, opportunistic acquisitions.”
Beyond the Top 101 ranking, which tapers off with companies in the range of about 60 to 70 stores, Ruben expects a great deal of M&A activity among midsize operators. “These are generational companies,” he points out, with retirements for company elders looming in the distance. “Smaller guys have a harder and harder time competing with some of the bigger players.”
Hot spots in the industry’s growth geography: Florida, Texas and a “ridiculous level of interest in California,” says Ruben, with astronomical prices and multiples making those stores more valuable.
CSP confirmed site counts for the entire Top 101 just before going to press, but of course the numbers are always in flux. Case in point: Several acquisitions took place as we were finalizing the list. They include: