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Steinhoff shares slump again; Alibaba, Ford confirm partnership

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Steinhoff shares slump again; Alibaba, Ford confirm partnership

TOP NEWS

* Furniture retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV attempted to placate investors with details about its finances a day after the Frankfurt-listed company disclosed possible accounting irregularities and its stock investigations 62%, but the move was not enough to prevent its share price tumbling another 31.3%. The retailer said it had received "expressions of interest" in certain noncore assets that would release a minimum of €1 billion of liquidity, and a subsidiary has committed to refinancing its long-term liabilities due to the company, which would free up another roughly €2 billion.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Ford Motor Co. signed a three-year agreement to explore retail and technology opportunities, confirming news reports and marking the Chinese e-commerce giant's first major partnership with a global car company. The partnership's initial phase will include a pilot study by both companies on combining online and offline aspects of car ownership.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Louis Vuitton, fashion brand of luxury goods retailer LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, launched a virtual adviser on Facebook Inc.'s Messenger app to answer customers' online queries, Bloomberg reported, citing a statement from CEO Michael Burke and California-based artificial intelligence startup Mode.ai. The label's chatbot, designed to provide fashion and shopping tips, follows the digital efforts of companies Burberry Group Plc, The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Compagnie Financière Richemont SA's Jaeger-LeCoultre, the report added.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Hudson's Bay Co. closed on a $500 million equity investment by Rhône Capital and appointed the firm's managing director Steven Langman and WeWork's managing partner Eric Gross to its board. Rhône's investment, which the Canadian department store chain will use to reduce debts and interest costs, was part of a group of transactions for Hudson's Bay, including the sale of Lord & Taylor's flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City to real estate startup WeWork.

E-COMMERCE

* Chinese online retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and its online unit Paytm Mall are set to buy more than one-third of Indian online supermarket BigBasket for about $300 million in a bid to compete with global retailer Amazon.com Inc., The Economic Times of India reported, citing three people familiar with the matter. The transaction, which values BigBasket at about $850 million, reportedly is in its final stages. Alibaba, BigBasket and Paytm Mall did not respond to the newspaper's email queries.

* Amazon.com Inc. failed to draw interest from Singaporean customers as its Prime Now launch was riddled with issues on shipping charges, glitches and limited content, the South China Morning Post reported. The e-commerce giant also restricted its free global shipping to Prime members as it ended the Free AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping option, which used to provide free shipping to Singapore on items valued at more than $125, the newspaper added.

FOOD AND DRUG RETAILING

* Health products distributor Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. will buy 40% of leading Chinese drug retailer Sinopharm Holding Guoda Drugstores Co. Ltd. through a capital boost of about 2.77 billion Chinese yuan. Walgreens' agreement with the China National Accord Medicines unit is still subject to regulatory review and approval.

* Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd.'s U.S. unit 7-Eleven Inc. expects to complete its acquisition of 1,108 stores from fuel distributor Sunoco LP for about $3.31 billion by January 2018. The Japanese diversified retailer said the deal is in the late stages of approval by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

* Standards agency Global Food Safety Initiative plans to form its seventh unit in India, which will initially consist of 20 to 25 members, to work with the government and regulators in the country in efforts to ensure food safety, India's Mint reported. The group's decision reportedly is a response to global companies' call for food safety collaboration after regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India banned Nestlé SA's Maggi noodles in the country.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Big-box retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is changing its legal name to Walmart Inc., effective Feb. 1, reflecting its current market reach as a "shop us however you like" retailer, said its president, director and CEO Douglas McMillon. The retailer will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WMT.

* Wal-Mart suffered a backlog of about 4 million orders due to higher volumes at Thanksgiving, Reuters reported, citing a senior FedEx employee. The big box retailer's spokeswoman Danit Marquardt admitted that some purchases "took extra time" but added that deliveries are now on schedule.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Home Depot Inc. replaced its prior share buyback program with a new authorization at $15 billion on the back of new fiscal 2020 targets, which include total sales to range between $114.7 billion to $119.8 billion per year. The home improvement retailer said it had returned about $73 billion to shareholders through buybacks since 2002.

* Swedish furniture retailer IKEA Group plans to grow its staff in India by 2025 to 15,000 — 50% of whom would be women — from its current headcount of 400, India's Mint reported. The company also increased its 2017 worker pension by 150,000 Indian rupees, the newspaper added, citing IKEA India human resources manager Anna Carin Mansson.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Mobile transaction volumes are expected to spike this holiday season as 49% of shoppers make purchases through mobile devices in 2017, while desktop transactions are maintained at 51%, Retail Week reported, citing PCA Predict data. The mobile usage shift is anticipated as devices become "more user-friendly" and are transforming the retail industry.

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Update: Luxury brands can block 3rd-party online sales — EU court