November 24, 2009 / 5:29 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 2-Couche-Tard profit hurt by lower gasoline margins

* EPS $0.47 vs year-earlier $0.49

* Revenue down 16 pct at $3.83 billion

* U.S. fuel margins drop lower

* Shares up 3.6 percent at C$20.83 (Adds details. In U.S. dollars)

TORONTO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATDb.TO) said on Tuesday its quarterly profit fell almost 10 percent as the operator of a string of U.S.-based gas bars felt the pinch of lower U.S. gasoline prices.

The Montreal-based company, which also owns a network of Canadian convenience stores, said it earned $88.2 million, or 47 cents a share, down from $97.6 million, or 49 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier.

The company, which operates under the Circle K banner in the United States and Mac’s in Canada, said revenue slipped 16 percent to $3.83 billion, due largely to lower U.S. gasoline margins.

Analysts were expecting an average of 33 cents a share and revenue of $3.84 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s shares, which have have climbed 87 percent in the past year, were up 3.6 percent at C$20.83 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

U.S. fuel gross margins dropped 36.6 percent to 15.78 cents when compared with the same time a year earlier, which the company estimated cost it about $65 million. Meanwhile, the Canadian margin rose by 1.17 Canadian cents to 5.49 Canadian cents.

Total revenue from gasoline sales dropped 25 percent to $2.41 billion.

But Desjardins Securities analyst Martin Landry downplayed the gas margin comparison noting that the 2008 gas price of $2.28 a gallon was exceptionally high.

“You can’t compare them year over year because last year it was an historic high. It was a bit of an unusual situation,” he said.

Landry noted that its U.S. margin of 15.78 cents was above the historic average of about 14 cents.

Couche-Tard operates more than 5,900 convenience stores, with 4,128 of those selling gasoline. ($1=$1.06 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Frank McGurty) ((scott.anderson@reuters.com; +1 416 941 8106; Reuters Messaging: scott.anderson.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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