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March 7, 2022

Couche-Tard to suspend operations in Russia

Convenience store giant Alimentation Couche Tard Inc. is suspending operations in Russia, the latest Canadian company to break off ties with the country as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

Couche-Tard will wind down operations effective immediately and implement plans to take care of its employees in a responsible and safe manner, the Laval, Que.-based company said in a statement early Monday.

“We condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the huge human impact it is having for both Ukrainians and Russians,” Couche-Tard Chief Executive Brian Hannasch said in the statement.

Couche-Tard has had stores in Russia for nearly three decades and currently employs 320 people there. At the moment, it has 38 outlets operating under the Circle K banner in the cities of St. Petersburg, Murmansk, and Pskov.

The company is the latest Canadian corporation to take a stand against Russia and pull back operations.

Toronto-based miner Kinross Gold Corp., which has operated in Russia for more than 25 years, suspended operations at its Kupol mine as well as all activities at its Udinsk development project. Auto-parts manufacturer Magna International idled its Russian plants, luxury parka maker Canada Goose suspended all sales in Russia. And Bombardier Inc. said Friday it is breaking off all dealings with Russian customers, including wealthy individuals who’ve already bought its jets and might want them serviced.

One hundred business leaders signed an open letter to the Canadian government urging Ottawa to step up sanctions on Russia. They also vowed to unwind commercial relationships with the country. The signatories included John Chen, executive chairman of BlackBerry Ltd., and Walied Soliman, chair of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP.

Couche-Tard said it has already donated over US$1.5-million to the Red Cross and has instituted a global campaign to raise further funds for the Ukrainian people. The company said since the beginning of the crisis, local Circle K teams in Poland, the Baltics, and across the European network have been supporting refugees with free fuel, food and beverages, housing, and donations to children’s charities.

Couche-Tard has close to 14,200 stores globally in 26 countries, including about 10,800 offer road transportation fuel. The stock has been under pressure in recent days as investors assess the impact to the company of higher crude oil prices related to the war in Ukraine.

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