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US FDA to limit sale of flavored e-cigarettes; Unilever names new COO


* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally proposed previously announced rules that limit the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes and cigars and speeds up the deadline for e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their products for full agency review as regulators warned they could pull products from shelves that do not meet the new guidelines. Under the proposed rules, the FDA could pull e-cigarettes from the market that are not sold in specialty vape shops, online or age-restricted sections of other retailers. Online sellers who do not limit how many e-cigarettes or liquid refill pods a person can buy will also face enforcement, according to the draft guidance.

* The Unilever Group, which consists of Unilever PLC and Unilever NV, named Nitin Paranjpe COO as part of management changes. Paranjpe, who is president of the company's foods and refreshment arm, will be succeeded by Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever's European region. Peter ter Kulve, who is the chief digital officer and executive vice president of the South East Asia and Australasia segment, was appointed president of Unilever's home care arm after Kees Kruythoff decided to step down from the role. Sanjiv Mehta was promoted as president of the South Asian region. All changes will be effective May 1.


* The Kroger Co. closed the sale of its digital coupon and digital rebate publishing unit YOU Technology LLC to North Carolina-based information technology firm Inmar Inc. The total consideration of the deal was $565 million, and Kroger said it plans to use sale proceeds to cut debt.

* Walmart Inc. is considering investing about $80 million to $100 million each in the southern Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over the next five years, The Times of India reported, citing Walmart India President and CEO Krish Iyer. The potential investment is part of the retail giant's goal of opening 50 stores in India, the report said. Walmart India also plans to open its new fulfillment store concept called "Dark Store" in Telangana's capital of Hyderabad in the next six months, the Times said. The planned site will span 25,000-square-feet.

* Casino Guichard-Perrachon Société Anonyme raised its asset disposal target by €1 billion after it executed its planned €1.5 billion sale of noncore assets, announced June 2018, ahead of schedule. The company, which initiated the plan to reduce debt in France by 2018-end, also said it now expects to deliver 10% growth in trading profit for its retail business and €500 million in free cash flow for the next three years. The announcements came as Casino Group reported underlying diluted EPS for fiscal 2018 of €2.49, down from €2.72 reported a year ago and below the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of €2.53.

* Canadian food retailer Empire Co. Ltd. reported adjusted EPS of 27 Canadian cents for the third fiscal quarter ended Feb. 2. This was below the adjusted EPS of 33 cents it reported in the year-ago period, as well as the consensus mean estimate of 35 cents, compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Adjusted net earnings also fell year over year to C$72.9 million from C$89.9 million. However, sales rose 3.6% to C$6.25 billion from C$6.03 billion in the previous quarter. For the 39 weeks ended Feb. 2, adjusted net earnings increased to C$241.8 million from C$219.4 million in the same period a year ago. Also, sales rose year over year to C$18.92 billion from C$18.33 billion.


* French spirits maker Pernod Ricard SA has held early discussions for a possible sale of its wine unit, Bloomberg News reported, citing anonymous sources. The wine division, which includes Australia's Jacob's Creek and Spain's Campo Viejo labels, reportedly has sales of about $500 million. Discussions are at an early stage and may not lead to a sale, the news outlet reported. The company did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.

* Dutch brewer Heineken NV said it opened its first brewery in Mozambique, representing a $100 million investment. Located in the Maputo province, the unit will have a production capacity of 800,000 hectoliters and brew a new local beer called Txilar, the company said.


* South Korea-based conglomerate Lotte Corp. plans to sell its food manufacturing business in China, The Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unnamed source. The source at Lotte reportedly said the company decided to shut down some factories in China run by Lotte Confectionery and Lotte Chilsung Beverage. The move comes after the company reportedly sold in April 2018 its Lotte Mart operations in the country due to the impact of an unofficial Chinese boycott after Lotte provided land for South Korea to install a U.S. missile defense system in February 2017.

* Swiss consumer goods giant Nestlé SA said it invested CHF12 million in its Argentinian unit to add a new production line at its Córdoba factory. The funds, part of a CHF127 million local investment plan, will enable Nestlé Argentina to boost the annual production of ready-to-drink products under its Nesquik and Nido brands to 10 million liters.

* French sugar processor Tereos SCA said it appointed Stéphanie Billet as its CFO, effective June 1. She replaces Olivier Casanova, who will be leaving the company.


* Tobacco giant Philip Morris International Inc. said it paid machinery-related charges, which it considers a "business expense," to its Indian partner Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. for manufacturing Marlboro cigarettes, Reuters reported, citing Philip Morris' India corporate affairs director R. Venkatesh. Reuters had alleged that the cigarette maker has been flouting the Indian government's foreign direct investment ban on the cigarette manufacturing industry. On March 11, Godfrey Phillips also said that the alleged violation is "completely misconceived and misplaced."


* Papa John's International Inc. said it expanded its partnership with DoorDash Inc. to offer delivery at more than 1,400 of its restaurants across the U.S. Anne Fischer, senior vice president for customer service, said 60% of the restaurant's transactions occur online and the partnership will help enhance delivery convenience for customers. Starting March 15 until March 17, customers can avail free delivery for orders above $10 from participating locations when they order from the DoorDash website or app, the company added.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.15% to 28,851.39. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.02% to 21,287.02.

In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.48% to 7,193.54 and the Euronext 100 was 0.53% higher at 1,033.03.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the import and export prices report, the new home sales report, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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