* British American Tobacco PLC said its Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., has received creditor protection after losing an appeal against a C$15.6 billion class-action lawsuit alongside Canadian units of Philip Morris International Inc. and Japan Tobacco Inc. Under the government's Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, or CCAA, the protection will suspend legal proceedings against Imperial Tobacco and allow the company to trade as usual while it seeks to resolve the litigation in a court-supervised process.
* The Kraft Heinz Co. has hired Royal Bank of Canada to review strategic options for its Breakstone's business, which sells sour cream, cottage cheese and butter, CNBC reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Breakstone's could get a valuation of about $400 million, and the strategic assessment is part of a larger process to review the company's dairy business, the report added. Kraft Heinz did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV said it plans to invest 20 billion Mexican pesos across its business in 2019, marking a 12% year-over-year increase. The Walmart Inc. unit added that it plans to invest in "high return projects" as part of its strategy to double total sales in 10 years.
* Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC proposed an ordinary dividend of 6.60 pence and a special dividend of 6 pence for full year 2019 after reporting that profit before tax and exceptionals for the year increased 8.6% to £406 million. The dividend increase brings the company's total full-year dividend up by 24.9% to 12.60 pence from 10.09 pence a year ago. For the year ended Feb. 3, the British grocer posted EPS before exceptionals of 13.17 pence, up 8% from 12.19 pence in fiscal 2018 and in line with the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate. Revenue rose 2.7% year over year to £17.7 billion, or 4.7% on a 52-week basis.
* Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S said it appointed Lars Lehmann as executive vice president for its eastern European region, replacing Jacek Pastuszka who will become executive vice president of its western European operations. Meanwhile, the company's executive vice president for Western Europe, Chris Warmoth, has been named Carlsberg group executive vice president, effective May 1.
* Chinese coffee shop chain Luckin Coffee Chairman Lu Zhengyao has tapped banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, for at least a $200 million loan, in exchange for awarding them mandates in the startup's planned U.S. IPO, Reuters reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Luckin reportedly has already selected Credit Suisse Group AG to lead the IPO, which could take place as soon as May and raise the company's value to about $3 billion. Credit Suisse, Goldman and Morgan Stanley declined to comment, while a Luckin spokeswoman said she was not aware of the matter, the report said.
* Starbucks Corp. said it will offer oat milk as a nondairy milk option at five of its Reserve Roastery locations in the U.S. The oat milk option also will be available at three standalone Princi bakery cafes in Seattle, Chicago and New York. Starbucks locations in Europe have been offering oat milk since January 2018.
* Netherlands-based bottler Refresco Group NV reported adjusted EBITDA of €82 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from €50 million in the year-ago period. The company's revenue increased year over year to €901 million from €520 million. For full year 2018, adjusted EBITDA came in at €322 million, compared to €214 million it reported in 2017. Refresco also said its revenue increased to €3.74 billion from €2.27 billion.
* Food giant Nestlé SA will be rolling out a sugar-free variant of its Milo chocolate and malt drink in Thailand as early as June, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The product is already being sold on a limited scale, and Nestlé plans to distribute the product across the country in a few months, the report said. The company's move follows the Thai government's sugar tax enforced in 2017, and the tax rate is expected to be raised gradually until 2023, the Nikkei added.
* Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. launched across the U.S. its Chipotle Rewards program with mobile payment service Venmo LLC. Under the program, the fast-food restaurant operator is giving away up to $250,000 to about 25,000 customers per day until March 15. Customers can sign up for the program to receive between $1 and $500 from Chipotle in their Venmo accounts.
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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 was down 0.39% to 28,807.45. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.99% to 21,290.24.
In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.05% to 7,154.95 and the Euronext 100 was 0.24% higher at 1,023.73.
On the macro front
The durable goods orders, PPI-FD, construction spending, e-commerce retail sales and EIA petroleum status reports 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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