April 22, 2016 2:21 pm
Updated: April 22, 2016 5:56 pm

Possible Quebec investment in Couche-Tard could hurt more than help

WATCH ABOVE: Another prized Quebec-based company, Alimentation Couche-Tard, could eventually end up in the hands of a foreign-owner. Global's Raquel Fletcher finds out why.

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QUEBEC CITY – Another prized Quebec-based company, Alimentation Couche-Tard, could eventually end up in the hands of a foreign-owner.

“There’s what they call the sunset clause, where the multi-voting shares will disappear like the sun goes down,” explained Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Pierre Karl Péladeau.

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The sunset clause, which was put in place when Couche-Tard was founded, states owner Jacques D’amours will lose his majority voting shares when he turns 65 in 2021.

Why?

The clause was put in place to stop D’amours from passing his shares on to his children.

If they want to take over his shares, D’amours’ children would have to buy them.

The clause isn’t good news for the Quebec business, as it means the company could be forced to sell if its current shareholders don’t buy up enough shares.

Now, opposition parties are calling for the provincial government to step in.

“Not buying it. Not spending $33 billion to buy it, but using what is available in the financial market with different shareholders,” Péladeau said.

It’s only speculation, but a possible sale of Couche-Tard would be the latest in a list of high-grossing Quebec acquisitions.

Among the most recent is the Rona sale to U.S. hardware chain, Lowe’s, and chicken restaurant chain St. Hubert to Swiss Chalet.

“In the last five years, in total net, we lost 14 headquarters in Quebec, so it’s about time we stopped this trend,” said Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader François Legault.

Legault worries that jobs will be lost if Couche-Tard’s headquarters are relocated and wants the government, through Investissement Quebec, to purchase shares in the company.

Legault argued this would prevent a sale that could potentially move the company headquarters out of the province.

Quebec Economic Minister Dominique Anglade agreed it was important to protect the convenience store chain, but isn’t committing to investing in it.

Laval University economics professor Stephen Gordon said a government investment could actually hurt Quebec companies more than help them.

“If the government is always going to intervene, say, ‘no, you actually cannot sell,’ then it’s going to be harder and harder to persuade investors that are outside Quebec, or even inside Quebec, to continue to do so,” he said.

 

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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