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Unilever warns of FY'19 sales miss; watchdog to review Mengniu's Lion Dairy bid

TOP NEWS

* The Unilever Group's shares fell 5.6% in early trading after it warned that underlying sales growth for fiscal 2019 is expected to be "slightly below" its guidance of the lower half of its 3% to 5% multiyear range, with sales growth anticipated to be below 3% in the fiscal first half of 2020. The Anglo-Dutch consumer-goods maker cited the economic slowdown in South Asia and challenging trading conditions in West Africa for the revision, but noted that there are early signs of improving performance in North America.

* The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it will review the proposed sale of Lion-Dairy & Drinks Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd.'s Lion Pty. Ltd., to China Mengniu Dairy Co. Ltd., over concerns that the deal will impact prices or terms of supply farmers for their raw milk. The watchdog also asked interested parties regarding their views on competition concerns related to the acquisition.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Most Target Corp. stores have extended their store hours and will open at 7 a.m. local time and close at midnight, while on Dec. 24, they will open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

* Amazon.com Inc. is prohibiting its third-party sellers from using FedEx Corp.'s ground delivery network for Prime shipments, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an email sent by the e-commerce company to merchants. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the ban and said the move is to ensure customers receive their orders on time, the newspaper said. Amazon and FedEx did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.

* Australian grocery operator Coles Group Ltd. said it upgraded its IT, supply chain management, and finance and procurement functions as a part of its digital transformation. Coles also built on its existing strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp., utilizing Azure cloud capability.

BEVERAGES

* The Coca-Cola Co. said Senior Vice President and Chief Growth Officer Francisco Crespo will retire in 2020, but will remain with the company through June 30, 2020, as a senior strategic adviser. Additionally, Bernhard Goepelt, senior vice president and general counsel, will serve through February 2020. Manolo Arroyo, president of its Asia-Pacific group operations, will become chief marketing officer, taking over Crespo's global marketing responsibilities. Coca-Cola will name Goepelt's successor at a later date.

PACKAGED FOODS

* Tyson Foods Inc. received approval from the U.S. and Chinese authorities to export American poultry to the Asian country from all 36 of its U.S. processing plants, Reuters reported, citing Bernie Adcock, chief supply chain officer. The meat processor expects to start taking orders from early 2020, Adcock added, but will probably not ship poultry from all its plants to China.

* The Scottish Salmon Co. PLC said CEO Craig Anderson will step down from the position, following its impending merger with fish farming company P/F Bakkafrost. Anderson will be replaced by Odd Eliasen, managing director of Bakkafrost's Havsbrún, effective immediately.

RESTAURANTS

* Dine Brands Global Inc. is opening its first IHOP breakfast restaurant in Lima, Peru, through an agreement with franchisee Percapitals SAC. Under the partnership, which was announced in July 2018, 25 IHOP restaurants will be launched in the country through 2028, creating over 600 new jobs in the region.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Brazilian and Chinese government authorities are concluding health guidelines for domestic processors for exporting soymeal to the Asian country, but no date has been set for the implementation of the protocol, Reuters reported, citing André Nassar, president of oilseeds industry group Abiove. Nassar added that a similar protocol is in place for the sale of cotton meal from Brazil to China.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 1.22% to 27,843.71, and the Nikkei 225 rose 0.47% to 24,066.12.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.21% to 7,503.42, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.38% to 1,141.94.

On the macro front

The housing starts report, the Redbook index for retail sales, the industrial production report and the Labor Department's JOLTS report are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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