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Walmart to test autonomous deliveries in Arizona; Sainsbury's Q3 sales drop 0.4%

TOP NEWS

* Walmart Inc. is working with autonomous vehicle startup Udelv to test the delivery of groceries in Surprise, Ariz., through self-driving cargo vans, the company said in a blog post. Burlingame, Calif.-based Udelv offers last-mile delivery through autonomous cargo vans that have compartments connected to mobile apps for easy and secure access. The cargo vans included in the pilot will deliver fresh groceries, collected by personal shoppers, to customers.

* British supermarket chain J Sainsbury PLC reported a 0.4% drop in the total sales for the 15 weeks to Jan. 5. Grocery sales, according to the company, were "solid" and saw a 0.4% rise in the third quarter, although the general merchandise sales dropped 2.3%. Sainsbury's added that it is on a track to save £200 million in costs in 2019. According to a Reuters report, the supermarket chain believes the competition regulator would clear its £7.3 billion takeover of rival Asda. Sainsbury's share price was up 1.43% as of midday trade.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* The U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. is sending free product samples to certain customers to help them "discover" items from new and established brands after the e-commerce company discontinued a somewhat similar program for its Prime members. According to the Seattle-based retailer's page, customers who have an active Amazon.com account, including non-Prime members, are eligible to receive free samples of products, including pet food, grocery items, and health and wellness products.

* Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV said it appointed Farhan Siddiqi as chief digital officer and member of the executive committee, effective Jan. 28. Siddiqi will be responsible for driving digital transformation and innovation across the company's local brands. Previously, Siddiqi was chief digital officer at McDonald's Corp., where he led the restaurant chain's digital transformation, including the launch of mobile commerce in 20,000 restaurants.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed Meituan Dianping, an on-demand food delivery company, signed strategic cooperation agreements with French auto parts supplier Valeo SA, U.S. visual computing company NVIDIA Corp. and automotive design company Icona at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show to support its autonomous delivery platform. Valeo will supply key components, including engines and sensors, for Meituan's autonomous delivery vehicles, while NVIDIA will provide technical support for autonomous delivery research and development, as well as trial operations. Meanwhile, Icona will design Meituan's autonomous delivery robots and vehicles.

* Private equity company H.I.G. Capital LLC completed the acquisition of food distributor Lipari Foods LLC from Sterling Investment Partners on Jan. 8, according to a release. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

BEVERAGES

* Brewer Heineken NV said it will nominate Ingrid-Helen Arnold to be a supervisory board member at the annual general meeting April 25. Arnold is the president of data network at German software giant SAP SE. She previously was SAP's chief information officer and chief process officer. The statement comes a month after Heineken named Jean-Marc Huët to replace outgoing supervisory board chairman Hans Wijers at the annual meeting's conclusion.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

* Singaporean agriculture conglomerate Olam International Ltd. will close its sugar trade desk due to mounting pressure, Reuters reported, citing the company's spokeswoman Nikki Barber. The decision comes after raw and white sugar futures on ICE finished at 60 cents to $345.40 per ton, compared with $390.90 a ton a year ago, hitting their lowest since 2008, due to a global supply glut.

PACKAGED FOODS

* New Zealand-based dairy producer Fonterra Co-op Group Ltd. said it will sell its Farm Source livestock division to Carrfields Livestock Ltd. as part of its companywide review for an undisclosed sum. The deal is expected to close by March 1, and Carrfields will absorb most employees. Fonterra will also help relocate a small number of employees who cannot be transferred to other parts of the co-op, the release said.

RESTAURANTS

* Silicon Valley start-up Impossible Foods rolled out a new meat-free burger, containing no gluten, animal hormones or antibiotics, David Lipman, the company's chief science officer, said in a blog post. The 2.0 recipe of the Impossible Burger, which uses a plant-based patty, contains no cholesterol, lower total fat and fewer calories. The burger, he added, get its texture from soy protein, not wheat protein, based on a response to consumers who enjoyed the original Impossible Burger but wanted it to be gluten-free.

* U.K. based bakery chain Greggs PLC posted a 7.2% rise in total sales and a 2.9% growth in like-for-like sales in the financial year 2018. In the fourth quarter, company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up by 5.2%. During the year the company opened 149 new shops and closed 50, growing the estate to 1,953 shops trading as of Dec. 29, 2018. Greggs expects to deliver underlying profit before tax of at least £88 million, slightly ahead of its previous guidance, the release said.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Thailand welcomed a decision by the European Commission to drop the Southeast Asian nation from a list of countries it had warned over illegal and unregulated fishing, Reuters reported. The country, which is world's third-largest exporter of seafood, received a "yellow card" in 2015 from the European Union over unsustainable fishing practices, carrying the threat of a European ban on the exports. Thailand's military government then did a major crackdown on illegal fishing and an overhaul of the industry.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 2.27% to 26,462.32, while the Nikkei 225 increased 1.10% to 20,427.06.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 1.02% to 6,931.58 and the Euronext 100 was up 1.05% to 939.02.

On the macro front

The MBA mortgage applications, EIA petroleum status report and Federal Open Market Committee minutes is 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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