* Lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested and charged over an alleged attempt to extort more than $20 million from Nike Inc., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department said in a statement that Avenatti threatened to use his ability to "garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met." Nike immediately informed federal prosecutors after becoming aware of the matter, the company said in an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence. "Nike will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant to a government investigation," Nike said.
* German real estate and automotive marketplace Scout24 AG is interested in taking over eBay Inc.'s classifieds business, the company confirmed during its earnings call to discuss its results for the fourth quarter of 2018. Responding to an analyst's question, Scout24 CFO Christian Gisy said the company is considering the acquisition because of its assets "that are not only relevant to only Germany, but also in other countries." In Germany, eBay operates mobile.de, a platform for used cars.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* The European Commission said it fined Nike Inc. €12.5 million for blocking cross-border sales of soccer merchandise. Nike, which held licenses for many soccer clubs' official scarves, jerseys and other merchandise, banned traders from selling in different countries within the European Economic Area, according to the commission. The sportswear giant was fined for its practices from 2004 to 2017, which involved licensed merchandise for FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Inter Milan, AS Roma and the French Football Federation. Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
* The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought forward by photographer Jacobus Rentmeester, who alleged that Nike's Jumpman logo for its Jordan brand violated copyright law, CNN reported. In his petition to the court, Rentmeester claimed the footwear company copied "virtually every original element" of his 1984 photograph of the basketball athlete. However, the court ruled that Nike's photograph was not "virtually identical" to Rentmeester's photo, which "involved little originality and merited only weak copyright protection."
* Tommy Hilfiger, a PVH Corp. business unit, closed its 22,000-square-foot flagship store on Fifth Avenue as the brand continues to focus on its online retail offerings and partnerships, Women's Wear Daily reported, citing CEO Daniel Grieder. The apparel firm reportedly is also expected to close its 9,000-square-foot store on Collins Avenue in Miami on April 28. The closing of its four-level Fifth Avenue outlet affects some 77 staff members, who may be relocated to other company stores in the metro, while the shuttering of its Miami location will affect 12 associates, the report added.
* Neiman Marcus Group Inc. reached an agreement with its lenders representing 55% of its term loans and holds over 60% of its unsecured notes to extend the maturities of its participating debt of more than $2.5 billion by three years. Under the agreement, the maturities of the term loans will be extended to October 2023, and the unsecured notes to October 2024. In exchange, term loan lenders will receive a $550 million paydown, which will be funded via the issuance of new second lien notes that are guaranteed up to $200 million on a senior secured basis. Noteholders will receive $250 million of 10% preferred equity in MyTheresa parent NMG Germany GmbH, plus new third lien notes due 2024. Neiman Marcus will commence the exchange offer in April.
* Sports Direct International PLC said it is considering an all-cash offer for Debenhams PLC in a bid to keep the struggling department store chain from falling into the hands of its creditors. The decision follows Debenhams' proposed £200M debt-for-equity swap as part of its efforts to restructure its balance sheet. In response, Debenhams said its board will give "due consideration" to the potential offer but warned that a bid for the company will not address the need for immediate funding.
* The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Zappos.com Inc. in a case involving a lawsuit stemming from a massive data breach at the online shoe seller seven years ago that its customers claim continues to put their personal information at risk. The high court's refusal to grant Zappos a review of the case means the lawsuit against the company can advance in the lower courts. Plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for that lawsuit, which is a consolidation of several other complaints. Zappos, a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., contends it is not liable following a 2012 data security breach of the online shoe sellers' servers that exposed the information of more than 24 million Zappos customers.
* U.K.'s Boohoo Group PLC completed its purchase of women's wear online retailer MissPap. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. "This acquisition further strengthens our multi-brand platform, representing an exciting opportunity to accelerate our offering to our ever-growing range of customers globally," CEO John Lyttle said.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* Australian supermarket chain Coles Group Ltd. will use Ocado Group PLC technology for end-to-end grocery delivery solutions in the country as part of a new exclusive services agreement with the U.K. online grocer. The announcement of the deal, which is similar to Ocado's existing partnership with The Kroger Co. in the U.S., sent Coles' shares up 2.52% to A$11.99 in early morning trading on March 26 in Australia. Ocado's shares closed up 1.91% at 1,255.50 pence on March 25 in London. Under the agreement, Ocado will allow Coles to use its Ocado Smart Platform, a proprietary solution for online retailers that combine end-to-end software and technology systems with automated warehouses.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. is combining its core imaging products and solutions, home entertainment and sound, and mobile communications segments into a single electronics products and solutions division, effective April 1. Sony appointed Shigeki Ishizuka as officer in charge and Ichiro Takagi as deputy officer in charge of the newly created entity.
* A group of activist investors, which together hold 5% of Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., is seeking to replace the home furnishing retailer's entire 12-person board, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Sources reportedly said Legion Partners Asset Management LLC, Macellum Advisors GP LLC and Ancora Advisors LLC think Bed Bath & Beyond has failed to adapt to the shift in consumer shopping from physical stores to e-commerce. The investor group wants the company to improve its merchandise by selling noncore brands such as Buy Buy Baby and Cost Plus World Market, and to replace CEO Steven Temares.
CASINOS AND GAMING
* MGM Resorts International will partner with Japanese investment firm Orix Corp. to bid for three casino licenses in Osaka and "create Japan's first Integrated Resort," Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing MGM Resorts Japan CEO Ed Bowers. The Las Vegas-based casino operator and Orix are expected to be equal partners in the deal, with other companies likely to join the consortium. However, Sanford C. Bernstein senior research analyst Vitaly Umansky said MGM Resorts will likely hold a below 50% stake in any venture but have more control over casino operations. Orix reportedly is the first Japanese company to express its intention to operate a casino after the government in July legalized the casino business segment, which can be worth up to ¥1.75 trillion annually.
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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 0.15% to 28,566.91, while the Nikkei 225 gained 2.15% to 21,428.39.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.24% to 7,194.64, and the Euronext 100 lifted 0.68% to 1,030.09.
On the macro front
The housing starts report, the Redbook Index for retail sales, the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller home price index, the Federal Housing Finance Agency house price index, the consumer confidence report and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's manufacturing 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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