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Walmart unit to launch Instacart delivery; Spectrum Brands, HRG to merge

TOP NEWS

* Walmart Inc.-owned Sam's Club partnered with San Francisco-based Instacart to launch a same-day grocery delivery service in the cities of Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas and St. Louis, Mo. The membership-only retailer, which will allow Instacart customers access to its product offering without a membership as part of the partnership, plans to expand the service to additional locations across the U.S. throughout 2018 and onwards.

* Consumer goods maker Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. plans to merge with HRG Group Inc., a holding company and Spectrum's largest shareholder, owning about 59.3% of the company's outstanding shares, in a deal worth $10 billion. Spectrum's current slate of executives will head the combined company, with its board of directors replacing HRG's board.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Eyewear maker Luxottica Group SpA, which is in the process of executing a merger with Essilor International SA, reported 2017 earnings that beat expectations due to a fatter profit margin, and it issued a positive outlook for 2018. The Milan-based owner of brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley reported adjusted earnings per share for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, jumped 10.3% year over year to €2.03 from €1.84 in 2016. Luxottica added that it expects 2018 sales growth of 2% to 4% at constant exchange rates and adjusted net income growth at "1.0-2.0x sales."

* Pacific Global Management-owned Italian luxury apparel brand La Perla was acquired for an undisclosed amount by German private equity firm Sapinda Holding BV, co-founded by entrepreneur Lars Windhorst, the Financial Times reported. The holding company established by businessman Silvio Scaglia reportedly was in talks for a sale of La Perla with several parties including China's Fosun International Ltd., which Feb. 22 acquired a majority stake in French fashion house Jeanne Lanvin SAS.

E-COMMERCE

* EBay Inc. is nearing a deal to acquire the Japanese assets of e-commerce site Qoo10 from its joint-venture partner Giosis Pte. Ltd. for $700 million, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The source said that as part of the potential transaction, the California-based online marketplace operator would shed its stake in Singapore-based Giosis. EBay declined to comment to Bloomberg about the matter, while Qoo100 and Giosis representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

* Chinese online retailer JD.com Inc. and trade center operator Hydoo International Holding Ltd entered into a strategic collaboration agreement spanning logistics, financial and e-commerce services, Hydoo said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Under the five-year pact, JD and Hydoo plan to integrate online and offline commerce in order to establish "boundless trade cities" around China, combining their logistics systems to improve service to merchants, as well as providing them with financial services.

* Amazon.com Inc. started offering its in-house delivery service to third-party retailers in Australia through Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, a program where the e-commerce company packs and ships products for its merchants, Reuters reported. Amazon, which will launch its Prime subscription service in the country by the middle of 2018, reportedly will operate FBA deliveries and shipping through government-run Australia Post.

* JD.com Inc. launched AI Catapult, a Beijing-based accelerator program aimed at helping JD make wider use of blockchain technology to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction. Beginning in March, participating startups will collaborate with the Chinese e-commerce giant to test their technologies across JD's operations including its online marketplaces and logistics network.

* Rakuten Inc. applied for a cellular frequency band with Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as it seeks to become the country's fourth mobile network operator, allocating $5.61 billion for cellular infrastructure, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The move comes less than three months after the Japanese e-commerce company announced its planned foray into the telecommunications industry, taking on Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.'s NTT Docomo, KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Group Corp.'s SoftBank Telecom Corp.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. agreed to purchase Chinese food delivery startup company Ele.me from internet search service provider Baidu Inc. and other investors, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The acquisition, if completed, would give Alibaba the biggest share of China's online food-delivery market and make it a competitor of Meituan Dianping, which is backed by internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. Alibaba, Ele.me and Baidu reportedly declined to comment.

* A joint venture between Amazon.com Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will likely have "a top-notch CEO" by the end of 2018, Berkshire board Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said. Together with his counterparts at Amazon and JPMorgan, Buffett, speaking on CNBC, said he is looking for an executive who understands the U.S. healthcare industry "from every angle." He also cautioned that the companies have not committed to forming a company but conceded that they "probably will."

* Amazon.com Inc.'s Indian subsidiary will open 15 new warehouses in the cities of Bengaluru, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad for the delivery service of its online ordering app AmazonNow, India's Mint reported.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Japan's Sharp Corp. signed an agreement with Gia Lai Electricity JSC, a subsidiary of the Thanh Thanh Cong Group, to begin construction in February of a solar power plant in Vietnam. The facility, which will be built in the province of Thua Thien Hue, is expected to start operations in September, generating power supply of approximately 61,570 MWh annually for 32,628 Vietnamese households.

CASINOS AND GAMING

* New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli filed a legal action against Wynn Resorts Ltd.'s officers and directors for allegedly failing to stop former CEO and Chairman Stephen Wynn from repeatedly abusing and harassing employees despite being aware of the situation. The petition alleges that the board knew about the allegations against Wynn as these surfaced in a March 2016 lawsuit involving the company and Steve Wynn's ex-wife Elaine Wynn, but they did not investigate the claims. A Wynn Resorts spokesman told S&P Global Market Intelligence that it had no comment on the complaint.