Mergers & Acquisitions

Who Might Buy Irving Oil?

If strategic review leads to sale, existing relationship could point to possible buyer, analyst says
irving oil
Photograph: Shutterstock

As Irving Oil conducts a strategic review to determine the future of the company, one analyst is predicting that Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. would be the most logical buyer of the company’s retail network.

“Consideration will be given to a new ownership structure, a full or partial sale or a change in the portfolio of our assets and how we operate them,” Irving Oil said in a June 8 statement signed by Arthur Irving, owner, Ian Whitcomb, president, and Sarah Irving, executive vice president and chief brand officer. “No decisions have been made about where this strategic review may lead,” they said.

Founded in 1924, Saint John, New Brunswick-based Irving Oil is an international refining and marketing company. It operates a refinery in Saint John, a network of distribution terminals and more than 900 gas stations, convenience stores and Big Stop truckstops in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It also operates Ireland’s only refinery, located in Whitegate. In 2019, Irving Oil expanded its presence in Ireland by acquiring Top Oil, a supplier of home heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel. Irving Oil established its European operations in 2014 with an office in London and tankage in Amsterdam.

“We believe Couche-Tard would be interested in the Irving retail network, though there is overlap between Couche-Tard and Irving’s eastern Canada network, which would likely require some divestitures if Couche-Tard were to acquire these assets,” Michael Van Aelst, an analyst with TD Securities, Toronto, said in a note to clients cited by

The companies already have a relationship. In 2001, Couche-Tard took over operation of 56 of Irving Oil’s Mainway stores, rebranding the sites but continuing to offer Irving Oil’s gasoline brand. In 2008, Alimentation Couche-Tard extended its retail brands into Atlantic Canada and northern New England through an expansion of the 2001 partnership. The new agreement included an additional 252 stores.

“Using some basic assumptions, we estimate that a hypothetical acquisition (net of divestitures) could add as much as $2 to Couche-Tard’s share price on closing and $4 after synergies,” the analyst said, according to the report. Van Aelst maintained a Buy rating and $74 price target on Couche-Tard, the report said.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard’s 24-country global c-store network includes more than 7,100 in the United States, primarily under the Circle K and Holiday Stationstores banners. Couche-Tard’s total worldwide network consists of approximately 14,300 mostly Circle K-branded c-stores.

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