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Juul curtails overseas expansion; Couche-Tard advances talks with Caltex

TOP NEWS

* Juul Labs Inc. said it is rolling back its overseas operations, as it reviews and adjusts its business amid growing crackdown on vaping globally, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a company spokesman. Meanwhile, a source reportedly said Juul could scale back or completely exit South Korea, and it may lay off more than a dozen employees in New Zealand as it postponed its launch in the country.

* Canadian convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. advanced in its bid to acquire Caltex Australia Ltd., as the latter entered into a confidentiality agreement to provide Couche-Tard select nonpublic information. There is no certainty that the talks between the two companies will result in an improved indicative cash price offer or a binding proposal from Couche-Tard, Caltex Australia said.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Brazilian food retailer Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição, also known as GPA, posted a 24% year-over-year increase in its 2019 fourth-quarter consolidated sales to 18.90 billion reais, including operations from its recently acquired Colombian unit Almacenes Éxito SA. For the full year, total sales came in at 61.51 billion reais, with e-commerce sales growing 40% year over year.

* Online food-delivery service Delivery Hero SE raised about €2.3 billion from the sale of convertible bonds and new shares to fund its €3.6 billion acquisition of South Korean food-delivery platform Woowa Brothers Corp., Reuters reported.

* Walmart Inc.'s Japanese supermarket unit Seiyu GK and online retailer Rakuten Inc. plan to open a logistics center in Yokohama to cater to increasing sales from their joint online supermarket business, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the companies.

* HelloFresh SE's stock was up approximately 9% in Frankfurt after the German meal-kit delivery service provider raised its fiscal 2019 revenue outlook to about 36% growth from the previous range of 31% to 33% growth due to "better than expected performance" in the fourth quarter of 2019. Also, adjusted EBITDA for 2019 is expected to come in between €45 million and €48 million, representing a margin improvement of 2.5% to 2.7%.

BEVERAGES

* PepsiCo Inc. said it plans to create a portfolio of power purchase agreements and virtual power purchase agreements to achieve its aim of using 100% renewable electricity this year for its direct operations in the U.S., which it said accounts for nearly half of its total global electricity consumption.

* Amityville, N.Y.-based distiller Iconic Brands Inc. completed the sale of 51% stake in its subsidiary Green Grow Farms Inc. to cannabis company Canbiola Inc.

* Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. said its total domestic sales declined 3% year over year in December 2019.

* The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture recalled and stopped production of all products of local craft beer maker Backer, after two men were suspected to be dead due to drinking contaminated beer, Reuters reported, citing an official statement. Backer reportedly said that it is cooperating with the investigation led by the police in the state of Minas Gerais.

TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS

* Japan Tobacco Inc. said it will reduce the price of starter kits for its Ploom Tech+ heat-not-burn product to ¥2,980 from ¥4,980, effective Feb. 1.

PACKAGED FOODS

* Nestlé SA said it will invest CHF2 billion to shift from virgin plastics to food-grade recycled plastics and develop sustainable packaging solutions. The investment forms part of the Swiss food company's aim to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

* Danone SA joined Microsoft Corp. to launch an accelerator program, called AI Factory for AgriFood, for supporting startups specializing in artificial intelligence-based solutions for food and regenerative agriculture industries.

* Shares of Associated British Foods PLC were up about 3% in morning trading in London, after it reported a 4% year-over-year increase in group revenue at constant currency for the 16-week period ended Jan. 4. ABF's sugar division posted a 7% year-over-year increase, while revenue from the agriculture division was up 10%. The company also maintained its fiscal 2019 outlook for growth in adjusted EPS.

* Norwegian salmon producer Mowi ASA's operational profit declined to €165 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 from €213 million in the year-ago period. The company added that it harvested 116,000 tonnes of salmon during the quarter, up from its guidance of 110,000 tonnes.

* Specialty ingredients producer Innophos Holdings Inc. said its stockholders approved the company's acquisition by an affiliate of private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners LLC. The transaction is expected to be completed in February 2020.

* Plant-based seafood producer Good Catch Foods raised $32 million in its series B funding round from new and existing investors, including Stray Dog Capital, Greenleaf Foods SPC and 301 Inc.

RESTAURANTS

* Shares of Guangdong, China-based restaurant chain Jiumaojiu International Holdings Ltd. rose as much as 56.36% on its first day of trading in Hong Kong. It offered 333,400,000 shares in its global offering and its stock opened at HK$9.50.

* Bakery chain Greggs PLC has teamed up with Just Eat PLC to launch delivery service across the U.K. by the end of 2020. Greggs will start making deliveries in Bristol and Birmingham this week and continue expanding in London, Newcastle and Glasgow after successful trials.

* British hotel and restaurant operator Whitbread PLC said its total sales in the third quarter of fiscal 2020 grew 1% year over year despite "despite challenging market conditions." For its U.K. business, like-for-like sales declined 1.3% year over year. The company added that it expects to take a hit of £60 million on its fiscal 2021 net margin.

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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 gained 0.38% to 28,883.04, while the Nikkei 225 was up 0.07% to 23,933.13.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.43% to 7,609.75, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.10% to 1,156.67.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey, the retail sales report, the import and export prices report, the business inventories report, the housing market index, the EIA natural gas report, the treasury international capital, 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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