* Nestlé SA will part with the portion of its business that sells brands including Häagen-Dazs and Drumstick in the U.S. for $4 billion, a deal that adds the unit to its joint venture with private equity firm PAI Partners. U.K.-based Froneri Ltd., which started in 2016 as a joint venture between Nestlé and PAI, already sells ice cream in multiple geographies. The transaction with Froneri is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close during the first quarter of 2020.
* The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission raised concerns about Asahi Group Holdings Ltd.'s proposed takeover of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's Carlton & United Breweries. The regulator said the potential deal would likely limit competition in the market for cider and beer, after it interviewed licensed venues, alcohol retailers, competitors and industry groups in its preliminary review. The competition watchdog is scheduled to release its final decision March 19, 2020.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* British supermarket-tech company Ocado Group PLC reported that fourth-quarter revenue its Ocado Retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer grew 10.8% year over year to £429.1 million, in line with its guidance but slower than the previous quarter's figure.
* Dutch food delivery company Takeaway.com NV extended its offer acceptance for its proposed merger with Just Eat PLC until Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. London time, after 13.53% of the British company's shareholders accepted the proposal. Takeaway.com's offer will be approved if 75% of Just Eat shareholders agree to go ahead with the merger plan.
* U.K.-based grocer Asda Stores Ltd. said it will replace 23 million black plastic steak trays with cardboard trays across its own brands to achieve plastic reduction of about 700 tonnes per year. The Walmart Inc. unit said the initiative is part of its plan to make its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025.
* Tesco PLC and nonprofit World Wildlife Fund introduced a sustainable basket metric to assess the environmental impact of some of the most regularly purchased foods across the retailer's stores. Tesco and WWF plan to run their first assessment against key sustainability criteria in early 2020, following which they will set up a target to halve the impact of the average U.K. shopping basket potentially by 2030.
* Ohio-based food retailer The Kroger Co. said it will set up a joint venture, dubbed Retail Procurement Alliance, with drug retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. to improve supply chain efficiencies and lower costs.
* German retailer Metro AG said its fiscal 2018/2019 EPS increased year over year to €1.44 from €1.22, while like-for-like sales grew 2.4%. Metro added that it expects net proceeds of more than €1.5 billion from the sale of its Real hypermarket chain and China assets.
* Canadian food retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. issued a recall of select units of PC Cranberry goat's milk cheese over concerns that they may be contaminated by foreign material.
* Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Corp., is offering to buy 57.78% of Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. for about 4.16 billion pesos, according to a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Lotte Chilsung already holds about 38.88% of the beverage company.
* Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. said its total beer sales fell 6% year over year in November.
TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS
* Marlboro-cigarettes maker Altria Group Inc.'s board declared a regular quarterly dividend of 84 cents per share, payable Jan. 10, 2020, to common shareholders of record as of Dec. 26.
* Brazilian meat processor JBS SA could be importing about 200,000 tonnes of corn due to a domestic supply gut and higher prices, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. The company did not reportedly mention the origin of the shipments that are expected to arrive in early 2020.
* Hormel Foods Corp. said it completed a solar energy project at its pepperoni and salami manufacturing facility in California. The project, developed in collaboration with IGS Solar, is expected to generate roughly 1.2 million kWh per year that will supply more than 15% of the plant's annual electricity consumption.
* Canadian meat packer Maple Leaf Foods Inc. said it has secured sustainability-linked terms for its credit facilities, after it met its carbon neutrality targets and achieved emissions reductions based on the science-based targets.
* India's National Anti-profiteering Authority, or NAA, has penalized Nestlé India Ltd. with a fine amounting to about 900 million Indian rupees for allegedly not passing the benefits of a reduced goods and services tax to consumers, The Economic Times (India) reported, citing a notice issued by the authority. A company spokesperson reportedly denied the accusations and said the company "will consider appropriate actions post studying the order by NAA."
* Breakfast chain International House of Pancakes LLC, owned by Dine Brands Global Inc., introduced a new fast-casual concept, dubbed Flip'd by IHOP, with plans to open the first branded restaurant in Atlanta in April 2020. The new concept forms part of the chain's growth plan, which focuses on to-go and lunch/dinner expansion.
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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 1.31% to 26,994.14, while the Nikkei 225 was up 0.14% to 23,424.81.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased by 0.49% to 7,251.27, and the Euronext 100 increased by 0.04% to 1,123.59.
On the macro front
The jobless claims report, the PPI-FD report, EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due 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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