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Report: Nestle, food giants eye GSK arm; UK to launch plastic waste-cutting plan

TOP NEWS

* Food giants Nestlé SA, Kraft Heinz Co. and Unilever NV are interested in acquiring GlaxoSmithKline PLC's health nutrition unit, Reuters reported. Unnamed sources told the news outlet that a sale of the Horlicks business might garner more than $4 billion.

* The British government said it would roll out a deposit return initiative in England for single-use drink containers in a bid to increase recycling rates and reduce waste. Consumers in the U.K. use about 13 billion plastic drink bottles annually, and more than 3 billion are incinerated, sent to landfill sites or discarded. The government is considering alternatives like cash rewards for returned containers and reverse vending machines, which return money when used glass and plastic bottles are inserted.

FOOD RETAIL AND DISTRIBUTION

* Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd., is mixing used cooking oil in its fuel to run its delivery trucks in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The Japanese company made this move to cut CO2 emissions of its logistics unit by 5%, or 31 tons, yearly. Consumers can drop off their used oil at over 400 community centers and other locations to be reused by the company.

* Russian retailer X5 Retail Group NV on March 27 disclosed the placement of 10 billion ruble-denominated series 001P-03 bonds issued by LLC X5 Finance. The bonds have a put option after two years and have a coupon rate of 6.95% per annum.

BEVERAGES

* Danone, a French food and beverage company, said it sold nearly two-thirds of its stake in Japanese company Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd. for €1.3 billion. Following the sale of 24.6 million Yakult shares, Danone's holding fell to 6.61% from 21.29%. Danone remains Yakult's largest shareholder, and both companies will continue their long-term partnership, the seller said.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

* U.S. egg prices almost reached a record high, just days before Easter. Wholesale prices in the Midwest more than doubled in the five-week period through March 23 to $2.71, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is the highest since prices hit a record $2.77 in August 2015 in the midst of a bird flu outbreak.

PACKAGED FOODS

* U.S. meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. is weighing the sale of its pizza crust business, TNT Crust, as it focuses on its core protein business. The potential sale includes the pizza crust business of partially baked crusts, flatbreads, and self-rising crusts along with the company's two manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin.

* Spice producer McCormick & Co. Inc. saw its net income climb to $422.6 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2018 from $93.5 million a year ago on the back of a one-off tax benefit from the recently enacted U.S. tax law. Diluted earnings per share came in at $3.18 in the three months to February, compared with 74 cents a year earlier. The company said this figure reflected an estimated net income tax benefit of $297.9 million.

* U.K.-based packaged meat manufacturer Hilton Food Group PLC's revenue in 2017 climbed 10.1% to £1.36 billion from £1.23 billion a year ago, as it did a few tie-ups and acquired Seachill. The company's earnings per share came in at 37.4 pence, compared to 33.7 pence a year earlier. Operating income rose 11.6% to £38.3 million, up from £34.3 million a year ago.

* Tokyo-based snack maker Calbee Inc. is bracing for challenges to its growth after CEO Akira Matsumoto announced his retirement March 27, according to a report from Nikkei Asian Review. Matsumoto is set to step down from both his chairman and CEO posts, effective in late June. He ruled out staying on in an advisory role. Another source of concern is Calbee's relationship with PepsiCo Inc., which holds a 20% stake, as the soft drink giant is set to gain freedom in adjusting its holdings under a special provision that ends in July 2019.

* Japan's Kikkoman Corp. introduced soy sauce with low salt content, containing soy peptide, a form of protein that improves blood pressure levels, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The new product, which contains 50% less salt than usual, is available in supermarkets across the country.

RESTAURANTS

* Fast-food chain McDonald's Corp. is struggling in India due to a legal dispute with its main franchise partner in the country, Connaught Plaza Restaurants Private Ltd., Bloomberg reported. The company is losing share to Domino’s and Subway, the report added, citing Euromonitor findings. A McDonald's spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

* Food safety concerns top the list of reasons that customers said they are eating Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. less frequently, according to a UBS Evidence Lab survey of 1,500 people. The Colorado-based Mexican fast-food chain is struggling to attract and regain customers, two years after a series of E. Coli outbreaks infected 55 people. The survey figures put Chipotle at the bottom of food safety reputation. In contrast, 15% of respondents said food safety is the main reason why they frequent McDonald's Corp. less.

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THE DAY AHEAD

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 2.34% to 30,070.29, and the Nikkei 225 was down 1.34% to 21,031.31.

In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.17% to 6,987.95, and the Euronext 100 had fallen 0.68% to 995.15.

ON THE MACRO FRONT

The Bank Reserve Settlement report, the MBA mortgage applications report, the GDP report, the international trade in goods report, the pending home sales index, the EIA petroleum status report and the farm prices report are due out today.

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