* Amazon.com Inc. discreetly launched Basic Care, an over-the-counter health products line manufactured by pharmaceutical company Perrigo Co. plc, in a move by the e-commerce retailer to attract customers away from brick-and-mortar pharmacy chains, CNBC reported. A spokeswoman for the Seattle-based company said the drug line does not give Amazon a track to pharmaceutical sales.
* Wesfarmers Ltd. is reviewing the store portfolio of Homebase, a chain owned by its home-improvement retail business Bunnings U.K. and Ireland, which will likely result in the closure of 20 to 40 stores after Bunnings' underperformance in the fiscal first half dented profitability. The Australian conglomerate's net profit for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2017, plunged 86.6% year over year to A$212 million from A$1.58 billion after writing down the value of its Target chain in Australia and the Bunnings U.K. and Ireland unit.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Guess? Inc. said co-founder, Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Paul Marciano, will take an unpaid leave of absence from the fashion company, relinquishing his day-to-day responsibilities while it conducts an investigation into recent allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
* Gap Inc. brand President and CEO Jeff Kirwan will leave the U.S. apparel retailer because the label had not achieved the revenue growth that company CEO Art Peck said was possible. Brent Hyder, Gap's executive vice president of global talent and sustainability, will temporarily oversee the brand while the retailer searches for a new president.
* Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Korean-Japanese conglomerate Lotte Group, offered to step down as chairman of the group's Japan-based holding firm Lotte Holdings Co. Ltd. following his arrest last week, Reuters reported, citing South Korean broadcasting network YTN. The report said Shin's resignation could reignite a family dispute in the conglomerate and impede its efforts to streamline. Lotte Holdings controls the group's South Korea-based holding company, Lotte Corp.
HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
* The Indian unit of household products manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co. named Madhusudan Gopalan as its new managing director and CEO, effective April 1, succeeding Al Rajwani, who will retire in June after onboarding Gopalan, The Economic Times reported.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* Nestlé SA will roll out its first organic food line in Brazil "in the coming weeks" after the Swiss food producer secured a distribution contract with supermarket operator Pão de Açúcar, Nestlé Brasil executive manager Carine Malher told Reuters. Malher reportedly also said the company will begin offering organic milk in the first quarter of 2019 through its internal department in the country that develops natural-based food. Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição, owner of Pão de Açúcar, confirmed the contract to the news agency but declined to comment.
* Albertsons Cos. Inc. and Rite Aid Corp., which announced a merger agreement Feb. 20, are looking to squeeze more sales out of customers dropping by the pharmacy counter to fill prescriptions. In a joint conference call with analysts, executives from the two companies laid out the rationale for the deal, including increased geographical footprint and local leadership, new opportunities for growth, financial strength and targeted synergies worth $375 million in EBITDA over three years.
* Japanese foods company Ezaki Glico Co. Ltd. agreed to buy San Francisco-based chocolate maker TCHO Ventures Inc. for an undisclosed sum in a move to enhance its foothold in the U.S. premium chocolate market.
* Healthcare service provider Express Scripts Holding Co. and drug retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. plan to expand their group purchasing efforts to include procuring specialty brand medication, or drugs that require special packaging or handling. Purchasing company ValoremRx will support the companies' efforts by sourcing specialty pharmaceuticals, resulting in a simplified supply and network, and lower costs for patients and clients.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* Walmart Inc. posted e-commerce sales growth of 23% in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, down from 50% growth in the third quarter. Overall, Walmart reported 40% e-commerce growth for the fiscal year of 2018. The retail giant expects growth to remain even at 40% for fiscal 2019.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* U.K. homeware retailer Dunelm Group Plc is in search of a new CFO as Keith Down will resign June 15, with his predecessor David Stead taking on the position until a replacement is found. Separately, the British chain said it completed the sale of its home furnishings brand Achica to online fashion retailer BrandAlley for a cash consideration of £600,000.
* Home appliances producer Whirlpool Corp. recalled 40,200 units of its KitchenAid 1.7-liter electric kettles in the U.S., 47,300 in Canada and 1,600 in Mexico as the products' loose handles posed a burn hazard. The company said it will replace the faulty products as it received 79 reports in the U.S. of the kettle's handles separating, which included three reports of minor burn incidents.
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