* Luxury-goods maker Hermès International Société en commandite par actions reported a 15.1% year-over-year increase in net profit for fiscal 2018, boosted by growth across all business lines and geographic areas. Net profit for 2018 rose to €1.41 billion from €1.22 billion, above the analysts' consensus estimates for GAAP net income of €1.36 billion, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Hermès did not provide adjusted earnings per share or earnings for the fourth quarter. The French maker of leather products, perfumes, jewelry and watches had previously reported that 2018 sales at current exchange rates increased 7.5% to €5.97 billion euros. The strong results, which belie fears about a slowdown in luxury goods spending in the key Chinese market, "confirms the strength of the group's growth model," said CEO Axel Dumas in a statement.
* Levi Strauss & Co.'s IPO subscribers are being advised to place their orders above the publicly disclosed price range ahead of the public listing, Bloomberg News reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The U.S. jeans-maker earlier priced its offering at $14 to $16 per share, hoping to raise as much as $586.67 million. Bloomberg said a spokesperson for Levi Strauss declined to comment on the matter.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Apparel retailer DSW Inc. announced that it has changed its name to Designer Brands Inc., effective March 19, and will adopt the ticker symbol DBI on the New York Stock Exchange, effective April 2. The Ohio-based company plans to strengthen its business over the next three years by differentiating the product offerings of each of its brands, increasing its market share via positive stores sales and partnerships, and leveraging the scale of its business. The retailer, which together with Authentic Brands Group LLC, bought fashion company Camuto Group Inc. in November 2018, expects adjusted EPS for fiscal 2019 to come in at $1.80 to $1.90 and is aiming for an adjusted EPS of $2.65 to $2.75 for fiscal 2021. For the year ended Feb. 2, the company posted adjusted diluted EPS of $1.66, up from $1.52 in the previous year but below the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.78.
* Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram Inc. launched Checkout on Instagram, a new in-app shopping feature that enables users to directly purchase items without leaving the platform. The program is currently only available to users in the U.S. It is also in closed beta version for brands including H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB, Burberry Group PLC, Adidas AG, Christian Dior SE, Nike Inc., Prada SpA, Fast Retailing Co. Ltd.'s Uniqlo and Industria de Diseño Textil SA's Zara.
* Online beauty services provider Glossier Inc. secured $100 million in a series D funding round led by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, valuing the retailer at $1 billion. Tiger Global Management LLC and Spark Capital Partners LLC participated in the funding round as new investors. The beauty products company said it will use the proceeds to build a business "that owns the distribution channel and makes customers our stakeholders," founder and CEO Emily Weiss said. Glossier also named Vanessa Wittman as its CFO.
HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
* Hengan International Group Co. Ltd. plans to enter the "female personal care product industry" in 2019 with the launch of product lines that include facial masks and tampons, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing vice chairman and CEO Lin Chit Hui. The company reportedly is diversifying its portfolio to boost profitability in 2020 after experiencing slow growth in the consumer market due to the high price of wood pulp for its tissue products and the depreciation of the Chinese yuan against the U.S. dollar. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, Hengan posted diluted EPS of 3.15 Chinese yuan, flat from the previous year but above the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of 3.07 yuan.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s fiscal third-quarter adjusted net income and EPS came in below analyst expectations as revenue rose. For the 16 weeks ended Feb. 3, the company's adjusted diluted net earnings per share of $1.08 missed the S&P Global Market Intelligence estimate for normalized EPS of $1.20. The Laval, Québec-based company reports its results in U.S. dollars. Adjusted net earnings attributable to shareholders of $609 million missed the Market Intelligence estimate for net income excluding exceptions of $669.3 million with five analysts reporting.
* The Kroger Co. said it will sell its Turkey Hill business to an affiliate of middle-market private equity firm Peak Rock Capital LLC for an undisclosed amount after announcing in August 2018 that it was exploring strategic options for the business. Turkey Hill offers a line of iced teas, fruit drinks, milk, frozen dairy treats and ice cream products. In a separate release, the Ohio-based food retailer and British online grocer Ocado Group PLC said the partnership will build its second customer fulfillment center in Groveland, Fla.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* German food retailer Metro AG has begun calling for bids for the sale of its China operations, in a deal that could value the unit between $1.5 billion and $3 billion. Reuters reported, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter. Potential bidders include Suning Holdings Group Co. Ltd., Wumart Stores Inc., Yonghui Superstores Co. Ltd., as well as private equity firms Hillhouse Capital Management Ltd. and Bain Capital LP, the report said. Sources reportedly told the news agency that the first round of non-binding bids could start by the second week of April, with Citigroup and JPMorgan acting as advisers to Metro. A spokeswoman for Metro said it is discussing the further development of its China operations with potential partners but declined to provide more details about the talks or the sale process, Reuters said.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Barnes & Noble Inc. appointed Joe Gorman executive vice president of operations, reporting directly to chairman Leonard Riggio. Gorman is joining the bookseller from General Nutrition Centers Inc., where he also served as executive vice president of operations.
* Chinese consumer electronics company Shenzhen Arashi Vision Co. Ltd., more commonly known as Insta360, is considering a domestic IPO as soon as 2020, Bloomberg News reported, citing founder Jingkang Liu in a phone interview. Liu reportedly said the GoPro Inc. rival is looking into a listing but has not decided on the venue, which could be on China's upcoming technology board or the existing Growth Enterprises Board in Shenzhen. Shenzhen Arashi also raised $30 million in funding from Chinese investors and plans to use the proceeds to open branded physical stores in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Japan and across major cities in China, among other things.
* Ikea Group is surveying major cities in Mexico, particularly Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, as it expands its reach in Latin America, Reuters reported, citing an interview with Antonia Banuelos-Leon, country marketing manager for Ikea Mexico. Banuelos-Leon, who declined to comment on store numbers and the company's timeline, reportedly said the retailer is considering various store formats and will likely announce its plans in a month.
* Former Steinhoff International Holdings NV CEO Markus Jooste and former CFO Ben la Grange are among eight people who played a role in a €6.51 billion accounting fraud at the embattled retailer, Reuters reported. The revelation comes on the heels of the results from a forensic investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers. On March 19, Steinhoff was instructed by South African lawmakers in a parliament session to reveal the names of the executives responsible for the fictitious or improper deals, Reuters reported. Du Preez then reportedly told lawmakers that Jooste, la Grange, two Steinhoff executives and four other outsiders played a role in inflating Steinhoff profits and asset values over several years.
* U.K. stationery retailer Office Outlet entered administration, putting 1,200 jobs at risk, BBC News reported. The former Staples Inc. subsidiary, in which Hilco Capital Ltd. holds a minority stake, "has recently experienced a reduction in credit from key suppliers" but will continue to trade until it finds a buyer, joint administrator Richard Hawes reportedly said. Office Outlet has arranged to close a number of its stores in 2018 after filing for a company voluntary arrangement, a form of insolvency in the region, the report added.
LEISURE PRODUCTS AND FACILITIES
* Ammo Inc. closed its acquisition of the casings operations of Jagemann Sporting Group, a unit of Jagemann Stamping Co. Inc. As part of the deal, the casings division will continue to be led by its current general manager and manufacturing team in Manitowoc, Wis. Jagemann CEO Tom Jagemann was also named a director on Ammo's board.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng declined 0.49% to 29,320.97, while the Nikkei 225 gained 0.20% to 21,608.92.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.14% to 7,313.56, and the Euronext 100 dropped 0.28% to 1,050.20.
On the macro front
The EIA petroleum status report is 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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