The Motley Fool

Why Warren Buffett Would Love Alimentation Couche Tard Inc.

Alimentation Couche Tard Inc. (TSX:ATD.B) is a true Canadian gem that I’m sure American investors would be swarming over. It’s a simple low-tech business that is growing like a tech stock.

Alimentation Couche Tard isn’t well known in the U.S., partially because it doesn’t trade on the American exchanges, but the company was brought into the American spotlight when it won the 2016 Pershing Square Challenge, which was a competition in which students of Columbia Business School pitched the best value stock idea to activist investor Bill Ackman.

The 2016 Pershing Square Challenge winner

There’s a reason why it won the Pershing Square Challenge, and Bill Ackman knows great businesses (with the exception of one infamous investment he made that didn’t go too well).

I believe it is quite possible that Alimentation Couche Tard could trade on the NYSE in the future, especially once the dual class share structure expires. If it ever does trade on the NYSE, it is quite possible that Warren Buffett could open his wallet and start buying shares in this forever business.

Management is concerned with driving long-term value through acquisitions

Alimentation Couche Tard has been on a very impressive acquisition spree over the past few years, and growth by acquisitions still seems to be increasing. The company has a proven formula to acquire smaller convenience store chains and drive synergies through the roof thanks to its terrific management.

The management team knows their business very well, and they don’t make acquisitions just for the sake of making acquisitions. They wait patiently for opportunities and aren’t afraid to pass if the price isn’t right or if the value isn’t there. But if there are huge synergies that can be unlocked, you can bet Alimentation Couche Tard will pull the trigger. We’ve seen this in the case where no deal was made between the company and Casey’s General Stores.

The company has also been very active during times of market turmoil. When oil prices dropped to scary lows, Alimentation Couche Tard was busy buying convenience store assets from oil companies with stressed balance sheets. Not only did Alimentation Couche Tard get low prices for the assets, but once synergies are unlocked, even more value will be generated for the long term.

There’s no question that the management team is disciplined, and if an acquisition won’t drive long-term value for shareholders, they will not make it, even if the acquisition will give a significant short-term boost.

What about value?

It’s a common misconception that the stock is expensive or fully valued. The stock currently trades at a P/E of 23.3 with a low 0.46% dividend yield. Investors usually assume that the business is low tech, so they assume such a premium for a low-tech sector is unjustified, therefore the stock is expensive.

I disagree with this way of thinking, as Alimentation Couche Tard is, in fact, one of the rare low-tech growth stocks, and I believe it’s one of the best hidden gems in Canada. Given the accelerating EPS growth, I believe the stock is undervalued at current levels and would highly recommend loading up on shares after the massive acquisition of CST Brands.

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Fool contributor Joey Frenette has no position in any stocks mentioned.  Alimentation Couche Tard Inc. is a recommendation of Stock Advisor Canada.

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