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Sears store closings to cost $443M; Kroger launches unmanned delivery service

TOP NEWS

* Sears Holdings Corp. expects to incur about $443 million in charges from closing 142 unprofitable stores, the cash-strapped department store chain disclosed in an SEC filing. Sears said the expected charges include $81 million in markdowns, $9 million in severance costs, $335 million in lease termination costs, $12 million in other related charges and $6 million in depreciation.

* U.S. supermarket operator The Kroger Co. said it will expand a partnership with startup Nuro to deliver groceries using vehicles without drivers. Kroger is debuting the service for customers in Scottsdale, Ariz., at a single store in its Fry's Food Stores chain. Separately, the company said it will sell You Technology Brand Services Inc., its digital coupon and digital rebate publishing unit, to North Carolina-based information technology firm Inmar Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Kering SA-owned luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta Srl launched its flagship store on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Tmall Luxury Pavilion online platform, according to Alibaba's news site Alizila.

E-COMMERCE

* Amazon.com Inc. said its third annual Digital Day shopping event will be held Dec. 28. The event offers customers deals, some available as early as Dec. 26, on digital content including movies, apps, e-books and games.

* Amazon.com Inc. further grew its presence in Canada as it opened a new 113,000-square-foot office, an expansion of its tech hub, in Scotia Plaza in downtown Toronto. Separately, the online retailer announced plans to build a new fulfillment center in Edmonton, Alberta, creating more than 600 full-time jobs with opportunities for career training and development by 2020.

* Chinese e-commerce company JD.com Inc. entered into three separate agreements in Thailand to promote cross-border trade between the country and China, Thai newspaper The Nation reported. In addition to promoting trade between the two countries, the strategic cooperation also seeks to enhance the competitiveness of Thai small- and medium-sized business, according to the report.

* Japanese e-commerce company Mercari Inc. will close its marketplace app in Europe beginning March 2019 due to high labor and advertising costs as well as stiff competition from competitors, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The company added that the move is a "temporary retreat," the Nikkei said.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* U.S. drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp. said it appointed Justin Mennen chief information officer and senior vice president. Mennen will be responsible for the company's technology and information operations.

* GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Pfizer Inc. are combining their consumer health businesses in an all-equity deal, a move that will lead to the hiving off of GSK's consumer business in the next three years. U.K.-based GSK and New York's Pfizer will own 68% and 32% of the joint venture, respectively. The JV — set to become the world's largest consumer health business — will operate under the GSK Consumer Healthcare name, with the exception of GSK's interest in its listed unit in Nigeria, which will be excluded from the venture. Assets within GSK's proposed sale of consumer healthcare nutrition products to Unilever PLC will also be excluded from the JV.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Rent-A-Center Inc. terminated the previously announced merger agreement with private equity company Vintage Capital Management LLC after the rental company did not receive an extension notice from the investment firm. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Vintage Capital is obligated to pay Rent-A-Center a reverse breakup fee of $126.5 million within three business days.

* German consumer electronics retailer Ceconomy AG appointed Bernhard Düttman as interim CFO, replacing Mark Frese, who will leave the company Dec. 31. The company also said its performance in fiscal 2017-18 "does not constitute a meaningful basis for a dividend payment." Frese added that the company has "a clear understanding of what went wrong" and that it expects the retail and consumer electronics environment to remain challenging in 2019. "However, Ceconomy has the potential to master these challenges," Frese said.

* Investment holding company HMV Digital China Group Ltd. said HMV Marketing Ltd. is closing its stores in Hong Kong after being in business for 25 years as it appointed liquidators for its unit. The music retailer added that the decision came after it took into consideration its insolvency and various defaults in payments.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng increased 0.20% to 25,865.39, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.60% to 20,987.92.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.91% to 6,762.45, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.46% to 927.74.

On the macro front

The existing home sales report and EIA Petroleum status report 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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