Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Couche-Tard chows down, Sony blows up

▲ Alimentation Couche-Tard

Fill ’er up

Storefront of Alimentation Couche-Tard

(Graham Hughes/CP)

If you’ve ever taken a road trip in Canada, chances are you’ve pulled into a service station owned by Alimentation Couche-Tard, a company easily identified by the winking owl it uses as a logo. The Quebec-based firm is the country’s largest operator of convenience stores and service stations, and it’s about to get bigger. This week Couche-Tard bought an American firm called The Pantry in a deal valued at US$1.7-billion, the largest transaction it’s completed in the U.S. The acquisition adds another 1,500 stores to Couche-Tard’s sizable portfolio, which already includes 13,500 locations around the world. CEO Brian Hannasch expects to top 25,000 outlets by 2023. (Who thinks that far ahead? Give this guy a high five.) Couche-Tard is an acquisition-hungry company and sees itself as the industry’s consolidator. Its biggest deal ever was the $2.8-billion purchase of Statoil Fuel & Retail in 2012, which gave the company a large presence in Scandinavia. Indeed, Couche-Tard is one of the few Canadian retailers to successfully expand abroad, and it’s remarkably consistent. It churns out profits quarter after quarter and its stock price is up more than 70% this year. Founder Alain Bouchard’s genius was in recognizing that a mom-and-pop industry could be transformed into big business. The only thing we’d like to know is just why that owl is winking at us. It must know our secret shame—late-night cravings for convenience store hot dogs.

▼ Sony Pictures

America: F*ck Yeah!

Theatre marquee showing The Interview with lots of security guards standing around it


A buddy comedy wherein a pair of hapless bros is recruited to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un sounded like a terrible idea from the start. But no one predicted just how bad things would get for The Interview, which stars schlubby everyman Seth Rogen and squinty Renaissance man James Franco. Sony Pictures announced this week that it’s shelving release plans for the film, much to the dismay of dozens of people eagerly anticipating its debut. The debacle started when Sony became the victim of a massive security hack carried out by a group believed to be affiliated with North Korea. The hack unearthed revelations both minor (Channing Tatum’s keyboard is stuck on caps lock) and shameful (Sony executives like to make really inappropriate jokes about the U.S. president’s taste in movies.) But the issue became one of national security when those claiming to be responsible for the hack threatened violence against theatres that screen The Interview. Naturally, this spooked major theatre chains—including Canada’s Cineplex—and each one said they would postpone its release. Sony had little choice but to pull the film, and reportedly nixed alternative release plans via television and video-on-demand. All of this will cost Sony. The film was expected to pull in up to $25 million in box office revenue its opening weekend, and cost about $80 million to make. In Hollywood, the event has prompted a serious re-think about other scripts involving North Korea, and production company New Regency has already cancelled plans for a thriller set in the country. At least we still have Team America: World Police.

(Update: Oh wait.)