* Dollar General Corp. said it expects diluted EPS in fiscal 2019 to grow to $6.30 to $6.50 despite posting adjusted diluted EPS of $5.97 that missed the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $6.03. The company also expects net sales to grow about 7% and operating profit to increase between 4% and 6% in 2019. For the year ended Feb. 1, the general merchandise store operator reported net sales of $25.6 billion, up 9.2% from $23.5 billion in fiscal 2017. Adjusted diluted EPS for the fourth quarter grew 24.3% year over year to $1.84 from $1.48, but below the Market Intelligence estimate of $1.89. Dollar General shares slipped 5.99% in premarket trading to $113.45.
* The Unilever Group, which consists of Unilever PLC and Unilever NV, said it has named Nitin Paranjpe as COO. Paranjpe, who is president of the company's foods and refreshment arm, will be succeeded by Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever's European region. Peter ter Kulve, who is chief digital officer and executive vice president of the Southeast Asia and Australasia segment, was also appointed president of Unilever's home care arm since Kees Kruythoff has decided to step down from the role. The company added that Sanjiv Mehta, executive vice president for South Asia, has been promoted to president of the South Asian region. All changes will be effective May 1.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Debenhams PLC's board will consider Sports Direct International PLC's offer of up to £150 million in unsecured loans in exchange for a 5% stake and appointment of Sports Direct founder and CEO Mike Ashley as Debenhams' director and CEO. The credit offer is Ashley's latest effort to gain control of Debenhams, which already ousted CEO Sergio Bucher and Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire from the board following opposition from Sports Direct and major shareholder Landmark Group. Under its proposal, Sports Direct would make an unsecured term loan to Debenhams of £150 million, part of which would be used to repay Debenhams' £40 million loan and the rest would be available for general working capital.
* Clothing brand Zara will launch pop-up customization corners in three of its stores in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Milan, allowing customers to select a design to be embroidered on items like shorts and jackets beginning March 27, Reuters reported. The Industria de Diseño Textil SA-owned label's new service reportedly will also offer personalized products for delivery or pick up in stores in Italy, Britain, Holland and Spain to test demand during the initial rollout.
* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE is mulling over opening a Cheval Blanc hotel in one of the three California properties it purchased in 2018, in a move that will expand its footprint in the hospitality sector, Women's Wear Daily reported, citing several sources. A company spokesman in Paris declined to comment on LVMH's plans for its properties in Beverly Hills, according to the report. However, the spokesman reportedly confirmed that the luxury goods company roped in Christian Boyens, Ritz Paris' former manager, to manage operations of its urban properties around the world.
* Lotte Corp. will sell its food production facilities after Chinese shoppers boycotted the company's products over the controversy surrounding the deployment of an anti-missile system in 2017 on one of the South Korean retailer's properties, The Korea Herald reported. The boycott reportedly resulted in mounting losses for Lotte, which also sold its Lotte Mart operation in Shanghai to Chinese retailer Liqun Group Co. Ltd. in May 2018. Lotte will close four of its six Chinese factories that manufacture products for its confectionery and beverage units within the first quarter of 2019. The multinational conglomerate also plans to shut down its department store in Tianjin later in March, leaving three Lotte Department Stores across China.
* Rakuten Inc. partnered with e-commerce services provider PChome Online Inc. in a move to expand the Japanese online retailer's consumer reach and improve services for its members in Taiwan. As part of the agreement, PChome will sell Rakuten Ichiba products and Rakuten Kobo e-reader devices, as well as promote the company's Taiwan Rakuten Card, on PChome's portal. Members of the two companies will also be able to use their Rakuten Super Point and PChome Point on both PChome Online and Rakuten e-commerce platforms.
* Amazon.com Inc. quietly rolled out an exclusive skincare and beauty products line called Fast Beauty Co. on its platform in the week of March 4, CNBC reported. The report said Fast Beauty Co., founded by Latvian models and sisters Simona and Diana Kubasova, is the first line the e-commerce giant launched from its brand accelerator program, which helps entrepreneurs create private-label brands to be sold exclusively on Amazon. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA raised its asset disposal target by €1 billion after it executed its planned €1.5 billion sale of noncore assets, announced June 2018, ahead of schedule. The company, which initiated the plan to reduce debt in France by 2018-end, also said it now expects to deliver 10% growth in trading profit for its retail business and €500 million in free cash flow for the next three years. The announcements came as Casino Group reported underlying diluted EPS for fiscal 2018 of €2.49, down from €2.72 reported a year ago and below the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of €2.53.
* Asda Stores Ltd. said it has eliminated 6,500 tonnes of plastic from its own-brand packaging since February 2018 and that it has taken steps to meet its goal of having 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. The company added that it continues to work with packaging experts to search for and assess alternative materials for packaging.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc. will introduce a low-priced tablet computer under its consumer electronics brand Onn, Bloomberg reported, citing product applications filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The newswire said that according to application documents, the tablets will be manufactured by Chinese consumer electronics maker Chunghsin Technology Group Co. Ltd. and will run on Google LLC's Android operating system. The move is part of a wider redesign of its electronics division, the report said. A Walmart spokeswoman reportedly confirmed that the product is in the works but declined to comment further.
* Walmart Inc. is considering investing $80 million to $100 million each in the southern Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over the next five years, The Times of India reported, citing Walmart India President and CEO Krish Iyer. The potential investment is part of the retail giant's goal of opening 50 stores in India, the report said. Iyer reportedly told the newspaper that Walmart India's plan to open 10 outlets in Telangana is on track. For Andhra Pradesh, Walmart India is looking at opening 10 to 12 stores.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* U.K. home improvement retailer Kingfisher PLC will remove products that contain metaldehyde across its 1,200 stores and introduce environmentally friendly alternatives as part of its sustainable growth plan that includes phasing out harmful chemicals. Metaldehyde is a chemical used in gardening products that protect plants from pests but may also cause pollution and harm to other animals. The company is adding chemical-free substitutes under the Safe By Nature range to its gardening offering in March after collaborating with partners on products that would be just as effective but also provide environmental benefits.
* Dixons Carphone PLC accepted the Financial Conduct Authority's decision to impose a fine of £29.1 million on its The Carphone Warehouse Ltd. unit, acknowledging that the company "fell short" in its previous practices but has now made "significant improvements," including more comprehensive customer-needs assessments. The group also said the fine will not impact its guidance provided during the company's Jan. 22 trading update.
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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 0.15% to 28,851.39. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.02% to 21,287.02.
In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.48% to 7,193.54 and the Euronext 100 was 0.53% higher at 1,033.03.
On the macro front
The jobless claims report, the import and export prices report, the new home sales report, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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