Canada's Couche-Tard beats estimates as fuel sales bounce back

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(Reuters) -Canada's Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc breezed past estimates for quarterly profit and revenue on Tuesday, helped by strong sales at the convenience store chain's fuel supply outlets following speedy vaccination drives and easing coronavirus curbs.

Revenue from its fuel business, which includes about 10,800 outlets across the United States, Europe and other countries, jumped 32% to $8.35 billion in the fourth quarter after falling by more than a third in the first three quarters.

"We had a steady improvement in parts of the network, especially in the United States, where we are starting to see a return to more normal driving behavior," Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said in a statement.

Couche-Tard's results mirror that of U.S. peer Casey's General Stores Inc, which reported growth in its fuel division earlier this month.

Fuel volumes, however, were still below pre-pandemic levels due to work-from-home policies and renewed restrictions in some regions including Ontario and Quebec, Couche-Tard said.

The Canadian company's revenue from merchandise and services rose 15.2% to $3.72 billion, boosted by its move to sell fast-food items such as sandwiches, hot dogs and snacks at more stores.

Total revenue rose 26.3% to $12.24 billion in the fourth quarter ended April 25, exceeding analysts' average estimate of $11.65 billion, according to Refinitiv-IBES data.

On an adjusted basis, Couche-Tard earned 52 cents per share, well above an estimate of 42 cents.

Couche-Tard's shares are largely flat so far this year, having taken a beating after the company in January attempted to buy French grocer Carrefour.

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)