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Sainsbury's says CMA erred in merger review; GameStop urged to overhaul board

TOP NEWS

* Supermarket chain J Sainsbury PLC is arguing that the U.K.'s competition watchdog made miscalculations in analyzing its merger with Walmart Inc.-owned Asda Stores Ltd., Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the situation. The news comes about three weeks after the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, notified the companies that it may reject their merger. Citing calculations made by Sainsbury's, sources told Bloomberg that the CMA's analysis would mean that neither of the two retailers could locate an outlet within 7 minutes' drive of the other. The news outlet said a spokeswoman for Sainsbury's declined to comment.

* Two shareholders of GameStop Corp. called on the company to overhaul its board and urged it to tender up to $700 million of GameStop's shares as the two investment management firms expressed concerns over the "dramatic underperformance" of the video game retailer's shares. In a letter sent to GameStop's board, Hestia Capital Partners LP and Permit Capital Enterprise Fund LP, which own a combined approximately 1.3% of the Texas-based company, also called on the board to engage with the firms to address GameStop's "ongoing value destruction."

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE signed the United Nations standards of conduct for business in a bid to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By signing the agreement, LVMH commits to combat discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and intersexed, or LGBTI, people within and outside its business. The French luxury goods conglomerate said it is also aiming to achieve gender parity in key LVMH positions by 2020 and introduced platform SHERO for female employee empowerment and the Inclusion Index that will champion diversity initiatives.

* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton will propose appointing Iris Knobloch, former president of Warner Bros. France SA, to its board of directors, replacing Bernadette Chirac, who is stepping down from her role. The apparel retailer will also propose naming Yann Arthus-Bertrand to its advisory board.

* H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB said net sales for the period ended Feb. 28 increased 10% year over year, or 4% in local currency, to 51.02 billion Swedish kronor from 46.18 billion kronor in 2017.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Sephora announced in a tweet that the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned personal care chain ended its partnership with Olivia Jade after the social media celebrity's parents were charged in an alleged bribery scheme to secure students' admissions in top U.S. universities. Jade, whose full name is Olivia Jade Giannulli, is the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli. Meanwhile, according to BuzzFeed News, hair care brand TRESemmé, owned by The Unilever Group, is also "no longer working" the celebrity.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* A U.S. federal judge ordered a hearing for April 5 to discuss which witnesses should testify, if any, before he approves the terms of the merger between CVS Health Corp. and Aetna Inc., Reuters reported. Judge Richard Leon previously accepted CVS' offer to temporarily allow Aetna to independently make critical product, pricing and personnel decisions while he reviews the consent decree related to $69 billion merger and after he ordered the companies to justify their integration. According to the report, Leon was "less convinced" that the Justice Department's approval of the deal on a condition that both companies divest their Medicare Part D plans will resolve competition concerns. Both CVS and the Justice Department reportedly declined to comment.

* Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA-owned food retailer Monoprix SA will expand its delivery partnership with Amazon.com Inc. in France after the service's successful debut in the city of Paris, Casino Group CEO and chairman Jean-Charles Naouri told analysts during an earnings call. Naouri said Monoprix already has covered all of Paris, plus 40 neighboring cities, and the company is "working on the deployment without any geographical limitation apart from that presence of Monoprix with Amazon." The business unit has also collaborated with online supermarket Ocado Group PLC to offer next-day delivery to customers in the northern part of France, and a warehouse for the partnership is expected to open in 2020.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV has signed an agreement with a labor union to raise the salaries of Walmex workers, avoiding a strike scheduled March 20, Reuters reported, citing company statements. Under the agreement with the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos, the Walmart Inc.-owned retailer will offer employees an average annual increase of 5.5% and an annual bonus tied to store performance, the report said.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* A Delaware court ruled that Rent-A-Center Inc. "validly terminated" its merger agreement with Vintage Capital Management LLC after the retailer exercised its right to end the deal following the private equity firm's failure to provide an extension notice. The court reserved its decision on the reverse breakup fee of $126.5 million to Rent-A-Center from Vintage Capital and its banker, B. Riley Financial. "We look forward to the Court of Chancery's decision regarding the $126.5 million termination fee, and continue to believe we are entitled to that fee in accordance with the clear terms of the merger agreement," Rent-A-Center CEO Mitch Fadel said. Meanwhile, B. Riley said it was "disappointed" with the court's decision and maintained that Rent-A-Center's claim with respect to the reverse breakup fee "does not have merit." Vintage Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Ulta Beauty Inc. said it expects to deliver fiscal 2019 diluted EPS in the range of $12.65 to $12.85 after posting full-year 2018 diluted net income per share that exceeded analysts' expectations. For the year ended Feb. 2, the beauty retailer reported diluted EPS of $10.94, an increase of 22.1% from $8.96 in 2017 and higher than the S&P Global Market Intelligence Consensus GAAP EPS estimate of $10.89. Revenue for the year increased 14.1% to $6.72 billion, compared with $5.88 billion in 2017.

CASINOS AND GAMING

* Czech-based oil and gas company KKCG and private equity company Emma Capital Ltd. agreed to split assets in gaming company SAZKA Group a.s. Upon completion of the transaction, KKCG will hold a 100% stake in Sazka Group, which includes the lottery company's shares in Sazka Czech, the Greek OPAP, the Italian Lottoitalia and the Casinos Austria. Emma will get all of the shares of Croatian gaming company SuperSport, along with "several hundred million euros" in financial compensation. There will be no impact on the operations of Sazka's units.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.56% to 29,012.26, and the Nikkei 225 increased 0.77% to 21,450.85.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.56% to 7,225.49, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.90% to 1,046.14.

On the macro front

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the industrial production report, the consumer sentiment report, the JOLTS report, the Treasury international capital report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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