Canada's Couche Tard beats earnings estimates as fuel sales surge

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

(Reuters) - Alimentation Couche Tard Inc ATDb.TO reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Wednesday as the world's second biggest convenience store operator benefited from strong motor fuel sales.

Revenue from the Canadian company’s fuel retail business, its biggest, jumped 20.5 percent to $6.82 billion in the first quarter ended July 23.

Fuel gross margin surged 21 percent in Couche Tard’s Canadian business, but fell slightly in its U.S. retail unit.

Couche Tard, one of Canada’s most acquisitive companies, bought 522 convenience stores from Holiday Stationstores Inc in the U.S. Midwest during the quarter. It now has more than 15,000 stores worldwide.

The company, which owns the Circle K chain of convenience stores, closed its $4.4 billion purchase of U.S. company CST Brands in late June, in its biggest ever deal.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche Tard’s first-quarter net income rose to $364.7 million or 64 cents per share, from $322.8 million or 56 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 67 cents per share, edging past analysts’ average estimate of 65 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue climbed 17 percent to $9.85 billion.

Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar