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Watchdog raises Amazon-Deliveroo deal concerns; Walmart invests in Ninjacart

TOP NEWS

* The U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority raised concerns over Amazon.com Inc.'s minority investment in Roofoods Ltd., doing business as Deliveroo, saying it can damage competition in online restaurant food delivery and the emerging market for online convenience grocery delivery. "If the deal were to proceed in its current form, there's a real risk that it could leave customers, restaurants and grocers facing higher prices and lower quality services as these markets develop," CMA Executive Director Andrea Gomes da Silva said. The competition watchdog said the companies have five working days to offer proposals that address the CMA's concerns, after which the CMA would consider whether to accept the offer or begin an in-depth investigation.

* Walmart Inc.'s India unit and Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd., the retailer's subsidiary, made a joint strategic investment in Ninjacart, a local fresh produce supply chain startup. The investment, the sum of which was not disclosed, is aimed at improving Walmart's and Flipkart's direct sourcing of fresh produce in the country.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Food retailer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV said its U.S. division will invest $480 million to transform and expand its supply chain operations in the U.S. East Coast over three years. As part of the investment, Ahold Delhaize will buy three distribution facilities from C&S Wholesale Grocers and lease two additional facilities.

* Walmart Inc., in partnership with robotics startup Nuro Inc., will pilot an autonomous driving grocery delivery service in Houston. The big-box retailer also teamed up with Ford Motor Co. in November 2018 and self-driving vehicle startup Udelv in January to test driverless deliveries of groceries and other consumer goods. Meanwhile, Nuro partnered with The Kroger Co. in August 2018 to pilot self-driving grocery delivery service in Arizona.

* Swedish food retailer ICA Gruppen AB's board announced plans that will result in capital expenditures of 3.3 billion Swedish kronor for 2019 and 4 billion kronor for 2020. The plan will focus on initiatives such as technology upgrade through artificial intelligence and analytics, as well as a strengthened food ecosystem.

* U.K. wine retailer Naked Wines PLC completed the sale of its retail and commercial businesses, Majestic Wine Warehouses Ltd. and Les Celliers de Calais SAS, to a unit of Fortress Investment Group LLC. The company added that it now only operates as an online retailer.

BEVERAGES

* Minnesota-based frozen food producer Schwan's Co., a subsidiary of South Korea's CJ Cheiljedang Corp., hired PepsiCo Inc.'s Chief Marketing Officer Roberto Rios in the same position.

* Smirnoff-vodka maker Diageo PLC said the combined median pay gap improved across its entities in Great Britain and Scotland, as the gap declined to 4% in 2019 from 5.4% in 2018.

*Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd.'s plans to expand its craft beer business in the U.S. may face a roadblock due the company's joint venture in Myanmar with military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Kirin subsidiary Lion Pty. Ltd. has agreed to acquire Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co. Inc., but the latter's employee-shareholders are reportedly under pressure from human rights groups to oppose the deal. Kirin reportedly said it is taking steps to protect human rights across its operations.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

* Australia's GrainCorp Ltd. named Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd. COO Robert Spurway as its CEO and managing director. Spurway will assume the position at the grains trader after the demerger of its malt business in early 2020. Separately, GrainCorp announced the appointments of Jane McAloon and Kathy Grigg as nonexecutive directors, effective immediately.

* Agribusiness Bunge Ltd. appointed Sheila Bair and former CEO of The Kraft Heinz Co. Bernardo Hees to its board of directors, effective Dec. 9.

PACKAGED FOODS

* California-based Beyond Meat Inc. launched its plant-based ground beef variant, called Beyond Beef, in Canada, marking the product's first international launch.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.79% to 26,645.43, while the Nikkei 225 ticked 0.08% lower to 23,391.86.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 lost 0.08% to 7,208.31, and the Euronext 100 went down 0.21% to 1,120.01.

On the macro front

The U.S. Consumer Price Index, the quarterly services survey, the Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration Petroleum Status Report, the Federal Open Market Committee meeting announcement and the Treasury budget 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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