* Amazon.com Inc. removed a clause in its agreements with third-party sellers in the U.S. that prohibits them from offering their products at lower prices on competing platforms, the Financial Times reported, citing a person with knowledge of the decision. The price parity agreement, better known as the most favored nation clause, is a contract provision that requires merchants to give a company that would sell its products the best terms available compared with other marketplace operators. A source confirmed the policy change to the newspaper. Amazon reportedly declined to comment.
* American apparel maker Levi Strauss & Co. has set the price range for its upcoming initial public offering at $14 to $16 per share, which would generate as much as $586.67 million for the company. Levi Strauss, which filed for an IPO in February, is offering 9,466,557 class A common shares while existing stockholders are offering 27,200,110 shares of common stock.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Karen Greenberg, president of G-III Apparel Group Ltd.-owned unit Calvin Klein Sportswear, died at the age of 60 after having esophageal cancer, Women's Wear Daily reported. The news comes after the report that Calvin Klein Inc. is searching for a president for its women's jeans segment, possibly allowing G-III to acquire the North American license of the business from the PVH Corp. subsidiary.
* Tod's SpA reported that it received board approval to distribute an annual dividend of €1 per share payable May 22, lower than the 2018 figure, after posting fiscal 2018 earnings that were below analysts' expectations. The company paid €1.40 per share in dividends a year ago, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, the Italian footwear manufacturer posted diluted EPS of €1.42, down from €2.15 in 2017 and below the Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of €1.62. Sales declined 2.4% year over year, or 0.5% at constant rates, to €940.5 million from €963.3 million.
* Primark Stores Ltd. launched its first range of jeans created from 100% sustainable cotton, sourced using "natural farming methods" that involve minimizing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, reducing water consumption and increasing farmers' incomes. The jeans, priced at £13, are part of the Associated British Foods PLC subsidiary's Primark Cares initiative and is the first step in the retailer's plan to use sustainably sourced cotton in all its products.
* Mothercare PLC will sell its Early Learning Centre Ltd. educational toy unit to specialty store operator Teal Brands Ltd. for up to £13.5 million, as part of its plan to reduce bank debt by about £17.5 million by 2020. Under the deal, Mothercare will retain ownership of approximately £6 million of ELC's inventory, which will also be sold over the next few months. The U.K. retailer, which is on track to deliver aggregate cost savings of at least £19 million annually, also said it expects to close 80 stores by the end of March. The company's original plan was to reduce its store portfolio from 137 shops to 78 by 2020 and 73 by 2022.
* The international nonprofit organization in charge of namespaces and numerical spaces on the internet's databases has postponed until after April 21 its decision regarding Amazon.com Inc.'s request to own the ".amazon" domain name, Reuters reported. The move reportedly enables Amazon basin countries Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname — which argued that the domain name belongs to them because it refers to their geographic region — to reach a deal with the e-commerce giant. Amazon reportedly declined to comment. After the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' decision, Brazil's foreign ministry maintained that Amazon nations remain "firmly opposed" to the company having "monopoly" over the domain name as it has an inseparable connection to Amazonia.
* Chinese group-buying website Meituan Dianping posted adjusted net loss of 1.86 billion yuan for the fourth quarter of 2018, versus a loss of 1.39 billion yuan from the year-ago period, its second quarterly loss since its Hong Kong IPO in September 2018. Meanwhile, revenue for the three months to Dec. 31, 2018, jumped 89% year over year to 19.80 billion from 10.48 billion yuan. For full year 2018, Meituan Dianping reported that adjusted net loss rose to 8.52 billion yuan from 2.85 billion yuan in 2017, still better than the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus net loss estimate of 9.45 billion yuan.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* French makeup, skincare and hair care products retailer Sephora SA will launch 35 new stores across the U.S. in 2019, beginning with a store in New York's Hudson Yards development on March 14. The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE-owned company will open additional locations in 32 cities, including Charlotte, N.C.; Los Angeles; and Palm Springs, Calif., and seven other cities in California.
* F.W. Evans Cycles (UK) Ltd. will close three more London stores on March 22 after failing to reach an agreement with landlords, the Press Association reported, citing CEO Steve Trowbridge, who also said the closure process is nearing its end. The move, which reportedly brings the total number of Evans Cycles store closures to eight, is part of a review of Evans Cycles' store portfolio following Sports Direct International PLC's acquisition of the bike retailer. "Where possible, we will redeploy staff based at these stores to other areas within the business," said Trowbridge, who reportedly added that the company is considering opening new shops.
* Helen of Troy Ltd. announced that it is exploring the divestiture of its beauty segment's personal care business, which includes products under brands Pert, Brut, Sure and Infusium. The consumer products retailer said the potential divestiture is in line with its strategy to focus on its "leadership brands," such as Braun, Honeywell, PUR, Vicks, its businesses with the highest volume and margin, and its most asset-efficient units. CEO Julien Mininberg said the move will also enable Helen of Troy "to concentrate resources on beauty appliances, including our market-leading Hot Tools and Revlon brands."
* Seasonally adjusted retail sales in the U.S. edged up 0.2% month over month to $504.44 billion in January, following a revised decrease of 1.6% in December 2018, according to an advance estimate from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau. The Econoday consensus forecast was for a 0.1% monthly gain. Compared with the year-ago period, total retail sales rose 2.3%.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 1.46% to 28,920.87. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.79% to 21,503.69.
In Europe, before midday, the FTSE 100 is up 0.17% to 7,142.66 and the Euronext 100 is up 0.03% to 1,020.81.
On the macro front
The Redbook, Consumer Price Index and the NFIB small business optimism 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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