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Couche-Tard to retire Mac's banner

Mac's will be rebranded under Circle K banner, says Couche-Tard CEO

Alimentation Couche-Tard is retiring the 54-year-old Mac's convenience store brand as it unites under the Circle K banner in most areas of the world.

The change has been in the works for more than two years and follows several acquisitions that have added different brands to the Quebec-based company since its founding in 1980.

"Today we may be a little bit of distant cousins being from different banners and different companies. We think this has an opportunity to have us act more as brothers and sisters,'' said CEO Brian Hannasch.

He said the change will accelerate the introduction of new products such as its house brand coffee across the network. It will also generate unspecified cost savings.

The company will keep its Couche-Tard banner in Quebec because of "unique circumstances.''

READ: Couche-Tard CEO Brian Hannasch on the business of selling time

"The notoriety of the brand is so strong here. It would be an even bigger challenge to change Couche-Tard to Circle K, so it was never really considered,'' executive chairman Alain Bouchard told a news conference on Tuesday.

The company will begin rolling out its Circle K brand to other parts of Canada in May 2017, following rollouts in the United States and Europe that begin next year.

No job cuts are expected among the approximately 8,000 employees that work at about 800 Mac's stores in Canada. Couche-Tard already operates about 125 Circle K stores in Atlantic Canada.

The change will also see the disappearance of Scandinavia's Statoil store brand acquired in 2012 and The Pantry's Kangaroo Express, bought last year.

Circle K is already Couche-Tard's most widely used store banner, primarily in the United States plus 12 other countries.

READ: The king of Couche-Tard’s next move

Hannasch said Couche-Tard conducted market research that suggested customers wouldn't oppose the change.

The Circle K brand licensed in stores across Asia is part of Couche-Tard's future growth plans but Hannasch wouldn't say if it's a precursor to a large expansion or acquisition.

"We're pretty well known in Asia today but this decision was very independent of our aspirations of growing in any particular part of the world,'' he told reporters.

Couche-Tard acquired Mac's in Quebec in 1993 and six years later bought the remaining 980 Mac's, Mike's Mart and Becker's stores operating in Ontario and Western Canada from Silcorp Ltd.

Mac's Milk Ltd. was founded in 1961 by Ontario businessmen Ken and Carl McGowen. The name changed to Mac's Convenience Stores in 1975, a few years after being taken over completely by Silverwood Dairies Ltd.

READ: Alimentation Couche-Tard acquires 55 stores in the States

The announcement was made ahead of Couche-Tard's annual meeting.

The company, citing a lack of support, removed at the last minute a plan to extend the voting advantage of the company's four founders. The proposal would have allowed them to retain multiple voting shares as long as one sits on the company's board.

Under current rules, the advantage ends when the last of the four turns 65 or dies. Jacques D'Amours is 58, while Alain Bouchard, Richard Fortin and Real Plourde are all at least 65.

Bouchard said it will work on a revised plan to present to shareholders later.

Couche-Tard's shares have surged over the years, making the retail chain the 15th largest Canadian company by market capitalization at $35.3 billion.

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