* Whole Foods Market Inc., owned by Amazon.com Inc., will no longer pursue its plan to open more stores under its 365 banner, which uses a smaller format than the retailer's traditional stores, Yahoo Finance reported, citing an internal email from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. In the email, Mackey reportedly said the company will no longer open new Whole Foods 365 stores, citing the chain's prices as the main factor behind the decision. Amazon and Whole Foods did not immediately respond to requests for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
* French alcoholic beverage company Pernod Ricard SA will meet with Elliott Management Corp. within January following calls by the activist hedge fund to improve the company's performance, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. The news comes about a month after Elliott acquired an over 2.5% stake in Pernod Ricard to push for change. According to Reuters, Elliott is urging the company to cut €500 million in costs and consider merging with another spirits company.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. said total sales across its Seven-Eleven Japan stores increased 3.9% year over year in December 2018. Same-store sales for Seven-Eleven Japan grew 0.8% from the year-ago period. The company's overseas unit, 7-Eleven Inc., posted a 17.5% increase in net sales for the month, driven by a 21.3% increase in gasoline sales. Merchandise sales for 7-Eleven's existing U.S. stores were up 2.8%.
* Dutch food retailer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV said it is rolling out nearly 500 robots across its U.S.-based Stop & Shop and Giant/Martin's locations. The robots, which help to find hazards and report them, are being distributed at both store chains, and the deployment will be complete by the early part of 2019. Other Ahold Delhaize brands in the U.S. will continue testing the autonomous robots in select stores.
* Walmart Inc. said it will open its first automated consolidation center in Colton, Calif., in July to support the retail giant's supply chain. Walmart said the 340,000-square-foot high-tech facility will open with 150 full-time staff and will grow to employ more than 600 associates by 2021.
* Amazon's food-only retail business Amazon Retail India Pvt. Ltd. will halt selling on the e-commerce giant's portal Amazon.in after Feb. 1 if the Indian government's new marketplace regulations remain unchanged, The Economic Times (India) reported, citing a source with knowledge of the matter. An Amazon spokesperson reportedly said the company was still evaluating the government's new guidelines.
* French retailer Carrefour SA said it will start integrating artificial intelligence in its inventory management through its new partnership with analytics platform SAS, a software developed by SAS Institute Inc. The company said it selected an AI solution developed by SAS to collect and process data from stores, warehouses and e-commerce websites to help reduce stock outages and overstocking.
* Consumer-focused investment company JAB Holding Co. Sàrl said partner and Chairman Bart Becht will retire during 2019. Becht will step down from his various board positions at JAB-backed companies, including Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. JAB senior partner Peter Harf and CEO Olivier Goudet will continue to lead the firm and oversee its investment strategy. At Keurig Dr Pepper, newly appointed JAB CFO Fabien Simon will join the board, while company CEO Bob Gamgort will become executive chairman. Separately, the U.S. beverage company said Phillip Hancock resigned as chief strategy and emerging brands officer, effective Jan. 18.
* Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's venture capital arm ZX Ventures LLC took part in another funding round for Texas-based autonomous inventory startup Pensa Systems Inc. The startup raised $5 million in the new series seed funding round led by Signia Venture Partners, with participation from Commerce Ventures and existing investors ZX Ventures, ATX Seed Ventures, Capital Factory and RevTech Accelerator.
* United Spirits Ltd., Diageo PLC's India-based subsidiary, entered a share purchase agreement to sell its entire equity share capital in Four Seasons Wines Ltd. to Grover Zampa Vineyards Ltd. and Quintela Assets Ltd. for about 320 million Indian rupees. The move is in line with the alcoholic beverage company's strategy to monetize its noncore assets, including subsidiaries.
* Tyson Foods Inc. disclosed a number of changes to its leadership structure, effective Jan. 28, following the meat processor's acquisition of Keystone Foods LLC from Brazil's Marfrig Global Foods SA for $2.16 billion. Tyson appointed Chad Martin as group president for poultry, while Donnie King will return as group president for international. Doug Ramsey will take the newly created position of president for global McDonald's Corp. business.
* Swiss chocolate-products maker Lindt & Sprüngli AG cut its fiscal year 2018 sales growth outlook to 5% to 7% in the mid- to long-term period from a previous forecast range of 6% to 8%, adding that the market environment remained "very challenging" amid saturated chocolate markets in Europe and the U.S. Lindt said its sales for 2018 grew 5.5% to CHF4.31 billion.
* Patisserie Holdings PLC, operator of the U.K. café chain Patisserie Valerie, said James Horler stepped down as nonexecutive director, effective immediately. He will be CEO at another business.
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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 increased 2.02% to 26,830.29, while the Nikkei 225 rose 0.96% to 20,555.29.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.022% to 6,856.51 and the Euronext 100 was up 0.42% to 933.19.
On the macro front
The PPI-FD index, Empire State Mfg Survey and Redbook index 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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