Seven & i Holdings Co., the world’s largest convenience store franchiser, agreed to buy Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway gas stations for $21 billion, betting that an expanded U.S. footprint will deliver growth amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
The transaction, to be paid in cash and partly financed using debt, will add about 3,900 stores to 9,800 locations operated by the retailer’s U.S.-based 7-Eleven unit, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement Monday. Seven & i shares fell as much as 8.4% by midday, the biggest intraday decline since March.
The deal is the second-largest purchase of a U.S. target this year and the biggest yet for Seven & i, a retail giant with 69,000 stores worldwide including 7-Eleven outlets and Ito-Yokado supermarkets in Japan. Seven & i spent $3.3 billion three years ago to buy Sunoco LP gas stations and convenience stores in a push to expand its U.S. footprint.
“This is a historic first step as we seek to become a global retailer,” Chief Executive Officer Ryuichi Isaka said on a conference call Monday.
“Japan’s convenience store market is at its limit as the population ages,” said Hiroaki Watanabe, a logistics analyst and author of a book on Japan’s convenience store industry. “There will be a short-term impact from the coronavirus in the U.S., but long-term the population there will keep growing.”
North America accounted for about 40% of the company’s sales in the latest fiscal year, up from about a third five years ago. Speedway’s store count has tripled since 2011 across 36 states.
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