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Report: Walmart eyes 40% stake in Flipkart; Danone's 2017 profit rises 42.6%

TOP NEWS

* Walmart Inc. is in discussions to buy a stake of more than 40% in Indian e-commerce portal Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd., Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter. The talks reportedly could value Flipkart north of $12 billion and would be part of the U.S. big-box retailer's move to rival Amazon.com Inc. in the country. A Flipkart spokesman told Reuters that the company does not comment on market speculations, while an India representative for Walmart refused to comment.

* French dairy products company Danone posted net income attributable to the group of €2.45 billion in 2017, up 42.6% on a reported-basis from €1.72 billion in 2016, as sales and operating margins rose. The company's earnings per share jumped 40.1% to €3.91 from €2.79 in 2016. Sales were up by 12.5% to €24.68 billion in 2017 from €21.94 billion in 2016, and operating margin rose 70 basis points to 14.36%, despite the rising cost of supplies.

LUXURY GOODS

* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE's fashion brand Fendi will open its first store in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, in mid-2018, Fashion Network reported. Fendi's two-story flagship store will have a total area of 230 square meters, the report added.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* U.S. department store chain J.C. Penney Co. Inc. will close eight of its department stores by May, resulting in the loss of 480 jobs, CNBC reported Feb. 15. J.C. Penney later confirmed the store closings and the layoffs to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The company operates about 875 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to the company's website.

* Sears Holdings Corp. said it expects to deliver a year-over-year improvement in its results for the fourth quarter ending Feb. 3. The retailer said it expects its net income to total between $140 million and $240 million. This includes a noncash impairment charge related to the Sears trade name of between $50 million and $100 million. Sears said it expects to book a noncash benefit of approximately $445 million to $495 million from U.S. tax reform.

E-COMMERCE

* Amazon.com Inc. reached a settlement of $1.2 million with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly selling and distributing illegally imported pesticides from third-party sellers on its site, Reuters reported. The agency said the move settled claims that the retailer committed about 4,000 violations associated with selling illegal pesticides in the country, the report added. Amazon reportedly agreed to strictly monitor and remove illegal pesticide products from its online portal.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido Co. Ltd. will unveil a skin care range called Optune in spring 2018 that will use smartphones to scan customers' skin and offer personalized products, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Optune, which can create over 1,000 serum-moisturizer combinations, reportedly will utilize Shiseido-owned MatchCo's technology for the scanning.

* Beauty products manufacturer Avon Products Inc. said it will close its operations in Australia and New Zealand, noting that the decision was made after it determined that there was no "path to long-term profitability" in these markets.

FOOD RETAILING

* Institutional Shareholder Services, a U.K. shareholder advisory service, is urging investors in wholesaler Booker Group Plc to vote against a takeover plan to Tesco Plc unless the supermarket operator raises its £3.7 billion bid, according to a report in Retail Gazette. The ISS could not be reached for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Booker shareholder Sandell Asset Management on Feb. 9 said the Tesco offer was insufficient.

* U.S. supermarket chain operator Kroger Co. on Feb. 15 inaugurated a culinary innovation center in Cincinnati to research product development for its private label Our Brands and to host training sessions for the company's associates. The 12,000-square-feet facility will also allow Kroger to create recipes for its meal-kit service, explore new restaurant concepts and conduct events.

HYPERMARKETS

* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV, the Mexico-based subsidiary of Walmart Inc., reported year-over-year profit and sales growth in the fourth quarter of 2017. Net profit attributable to owners of its parent rose to 10.58 billion Mexican pesos for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, 1.7% higher than the 10.4 billion pesos reported in the prior-year quarter. The company reported EPS of 61 centavos for the quarter, compared to 60 centavos a year ago.

* Russian supermarket chain operator PJSC Magnit said its general director and a member of the company's board, Sergey Nikolaevich Galitskiy, plans to step down. Galitskiy, the founder and largest shareholder of the company, signed an agreement with a subsidiary of VTB Bank to sell his 29,656,200 Magnit shares, or a 29.1% stake, to the bank.

SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Steinhoff International Holdings NV said its 2017 consolidated financial statement will not be proposed for adoption at the South African retailer's annual general meeting April 20 due to the ongoing investigation into its accounting. A separate general meeting for shareholders will be convened as soon as possible once the consolidated accounts for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2017, have been finalized. In a separate announcement, Steinhoff said it had appointed Richard Heis chief restructuring officer.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* U.K. retail sales volume edged up 0.1% in January from December 2017, with declines across all main sectors except nonfood stores, the Office for National Statistics said. For full year 2017, the volume of retail sales increased by 1.9%, the lowest annual growth rate since 2013.

* China Electronic Commerce Association, a government-backed organization related to e-commerce, has opened a luxury brand authentication center in Beijing and an online portal for customers to verify the certifications of a luxury brand seller, Jing Daily reported. The center reportedly can check an item's authenticity and also allow customers to ask for a re-evaluation if their concerns are not addressed, the publication reported.

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