ANKENY, IA-Casey’s General Stores executives are looking at buying other convenience-store concepts for growth, even at a time when operators might not be ready to sell. “We remain optimistic about the long-term acquisition opportunities,” said William Walljasper, the company’s CFO, during its second-quarter earnings call.

In the near term, though, pricing might be too high, based on the large margins many convenience-store owners are reaping from gasoline sales. However, Walljasper said that he expects margins to drop to more historical levels next year.

During the quarter, which ended Dec. 4, Casey’s benefited from high gasoline margins, which pushed its profits in the category up 61.4%, to $92 million. This occurred even as same-store gallons sold were down 1.6% from the same year-ago period.

Inside its stores, Casey’s sales were much stronger. Same-store sales for prepared food and fountain drinks rose 10.6% and 11.2% for grocery items and other merchandise. During its first two quarters, gross profit on inside-store sales rose 17.9%, to $272.4 million.

Casey’s management expects to acquire 50 stores and build 10 by the end of its fiscal year on April 30. The company currently operates about 1,450 convenience stores throughout the Midwest.

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