Cara acquires Groupe St-Hubert

by Erica Shaffer
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VAUGHAN, Ontario – Cara Operations Ltd., owner of Swiss Chalet and other restaurants in Canada, said it has entered an agreement to acquire Groupe St-Hubert Inc., a leading full-service restaurant operator and food manufacturer based in Laval, Quebec, for C$537 million ($414 million). Cara expects the acquisition to be immediately accretive to adjusted net earnings per share.

Terms of the transaction give Cara 117 restaurants with system sales of approximately C$403 million ($310.7 million), and a presence in the province of Quebec. Cara also gains two food manufacturing plants and two distribution centers with sales of C$225 million ($173 million) in addition to a real estate portfolio of 28 properties and two manufacturing plants. Cara will maintain St-Hubert’s existing offices in Laval.

Cara is purchasing St-Hubert on a cash-free, debt-free basis; financing includes a credit facility of C$700 million ($539.7 million) which includes a C$200 million ($154 million) two-year term loan in addition to C$50 million ($39 million) from issuance of Cara subordinate voting shares.

Bill Gregson, chairman and CEO of Cara, called the acquisition a “historic day for Cara…”and a strategic fit for both companies. Cara will be able leverage St-Hubert’s food manufacturing capabilities to grow its branded retail product offerings. St-Hubert will be able to expand its food manufacturing programs in Canada.

“The acquisition provides Cara with a restaurant chain that resonates with guests in Québec as well as with a food retail solution for the Cara brands — these are two areas of Cara’s existing business where we have tremendous opportunities,” Gregson said in a statement. “It also provides Cara with a head office in Québec, manufacturing facilities, and a skilled management team that will grow and manage the Cara Québec restaurant expansion and national retail food initiative.”

Meanwhile, more career opportunities will be coming to Quebec, according to Jean-Pierre Léger, chairman and CEO of St-Hubert.

“This alliance, which will ensure St-Hubert’s sound development, opens up excellent future prospects for our employees,” Léger said. “It also provides them with more career opportunities by creating jobs in Québec, since it will enable us to carry out major expansions of our food manufacturing programs and sales throughout Canada.  Our customers will have access to the broad range of products offered by a national leader.”

Cara Operations is Canada’s largest full-service restaurant operator. The company owns Swiss Chalet casual dining restaurants, Harvey’s, a chain of burger outlets and many other foodservice brands in Canada. As of Dec. 27, 2015, the company had 1,010 restaurants, with 973 in Canada and 37 located internationally.

St-Hubert was founded by the Léger family in 1951. The company is Canada’s fourth-largest full-service restaurant operator. St-Hubert operates 80 full-service restaurants and 37 express locations. As of Dec. 31, 2015, 89 percent of St-Hubert restaurants are operated by franchisees and 92 percent of the locations are in Québec.

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