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Walmart to invest in China, LatAm; Amazon forms Alexa 'health & wellness' team

TOP NEWS

* Walmart Inc. is looking to make "significant investments" in China and Latin America after it entered the Indian market with its recent purchase of a majority stake in Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd., CEO Doug McMillon told the Financial Times. McMillon reportedly described the developing economies as priorities for the retailer's expansion plans as Walmart positions itself for "the next generation of retail." Meanwhile, the company also said it plans to add 50 new stores to its wholesale cash-and-carry segment in India over the next four to five years, Mint reported, citing country president and CEO Krish Iyer.

* Amazon.com Inc. formed a team within its Alexa voice-assistant division named "health & wellness," tasked to handle regulations laid out by healthcare and insurance laws, CNBC reported, citing an internal company document and sources with knowledge of the matter. The group, which consists of about a dozen members headed by five-year Amazon veteran Rachel Jiang, reportedly will also target areas like diabetes management, care for mothers and infants, and aging.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* L Brands Inc. adjusted its first-quarter EPS forecast as it reported a 4% rise in net sales for the four weeks ended May 5. The women's apparel retailer said it expects its EPS for the fiscal first quarter at the lower end of its previous guidance of 15 cents to 20 cents. The Ohio-based company, which owns Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said its net sales for the first quarter ended May 5 came in at $2.63 billion, up 8% from $2.44 billion during the same quarter ended April 29, 2017.

* Valentino SpA has put its plans to take the company public "on hold," focusing instead on the growth of the luxury goods retailer, Women's Wear Daily reported, citing CEO Stefano Sassi. The Italian company, which plans to open 10 stores in Asia and Europe in 2018, reportedly posted a 7% year-over-year increase in revenue, on a constant-currency basis, to €1.16 billion, driven by sales at its women's accessories category.

* A U.S. court of appeals upheld the February 2016 decision that Skechers USA Inc. cannot sell its Onix shoe products, deeming it "nearly identical" to Adidas AG's Stan Smith footwear line, Reuters reported, citing Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen. Skechers, however, can resume selling its Cross Court shoes, which has three stripes on its side, after the court reversed a previous ruling, finding no sufficient evidence that Adidas will suffer irreparable harm from the sale.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Lotte Shopping Co. Ltd.-owned Lotte Shopping Holding Hong Kong Co. will sell its Lotte Mart operation in Shanghai to Chinese retailer Liqun Group Co. Ltd. for 291.4 billion South Korean won, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a regulatory filing by the retail giant. Currently, only four out of 74 Lotte Mart discount stores in Shanghai and its surrounding areas are running, with the rest voluntarily closed or shut down by Chinese authorities amid a diplomatic spat between Seoul and Beijing in 2017. Liqun is expected to acquire 53 of the stores, with the rest likely to be closed permanently, according to the report.

* House of Fraser incurred a loss of £37 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, citing impact from Brexit and a volatile retail market, C.banner International Holdings Ltd. said in a regulatory filing disclosing its majority holding in the company. The British department store chain recorded gross profit in fiscal 2017 of £487.2 million, down from £453.5 million reported in 2016. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong-listed footwear company said it expects an improvement in House of Fraser's operations, profitability and cash flow once the deal's restructuring plan is complete.

* General merchandise store operator Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd, or CTC, agreed to acquire sports and outdoor apparel company Helly Hansen for C$985 million. The purchase of the Oslo-based company, which is controlled by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, will expand CTC's brand offerings and global footprint as well as strengthen the company's core businesses. Helly Hansen CEO Paul Stoneham and his team will continue to oversee the business after the transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter of fiscal 2018.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* German household products producer Henkel AG & Co. KGaA signed an agreement to acquire laundry and home care products manufacturer JemPak Corp. from Canada's Acasta Enterprises Inc. for C$118 million on a cash-free and debt-free basis. The deal, which is expected to close on or before May 31, will bolster the North American laundry and home care portfolio of Henkel, while Acasta expects the transaction to help the private equity firm pay down debt.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* The Brazilian arm of Carrefour SA rolled out a service where customers can shop for its products online and drive to a designated drive-thru to have their purchases loaded into their car, Reuters reported. The "click-and-collect style" service reportedly is available at one Carrefour store in São Paulo. Carrefour Brasil did not give details about how it plans to expand the service, which is already available in other countries where its French parent operates, the report added.

* Walmart Inc. will showcase its cosmetics brand Hard Candy in 365 of its outlets over the next 12 months in a move to boost in-store experience, Women's Wear Daily reported. Hard Candy's "retail-tainment" program reportedly will center on four key products with prices ranging between $6 and $10 as well as offer makeup consultations to shoppers.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* A member of the U.K. parliament, or MP, urged the country's safety regulatory body to require household appliances manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. to recall all its defective tumble dryers, which pose a fire hazard. In a letter to Andrew Griffiths, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, MP Rachel Reeves, called on the government to "consider a full recall of defective machines" after Whirlpool's continued refusal "to take proper responsibility for defects."

* An investigation into financial irregularities at Steinhoff International Holdings NV has found that the expected overstatement of profits and the accounting treatment of related parties could result in material additional impairments. In its first comment on the independent probe led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Steinhoff said the extent of the discrepancies were "still being calculated and investigated," and would form part of a June 2018 presentation dealing with interim results. However, the initial feedback from PwC's forensic investigation, launched in December 2017, "substantially aligns with and confirms the irregularities identified by Deloitte," Steinhoff said.

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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 1.02% to 31,122.06, and the Nikkei 225 climbed 1.16% to 22,758.48.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.09% to 7,693.397, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.19% to 1,068.34.

On the macro front

The import and export prices report, the consumer sentiment report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count report are due out today.

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