* Walmart Inc. has halted the use of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-affiliated Alipay in western China in favor of Tencent Holdings Ltd. WeChat Pay, underscoring the ongoing battle between the Chinese tech giants to gain share in the mobile payments market. The development came to light as customers made online posts of notices seen at several Walmart stores in the region saying the U.S. retailer had stopped accepting Alipay for purchases. A Walmart spokeswoman confirmed the "business decision" with S&P Global Market Intelligence, saying the retailer had "suspended" acceptance of Alipay at its western China stores since March 15, after entering into an exclusive partnership with WeChat Pay.
* Walmart Inc. will remove Hearst Corp.-owned Cosmopolitan magazines from its checkout counters after facing pressure from an activist group that referred to the magazine's covers as "sexploitation," Bloomberg reported March 27, citing an email from company spokesman Randy Hargrove. In a same-day website post, the Washington-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation said Cosmopolitan's articles "promote pornography and sexting" and sends the same messages about female sexuality as Playboy. Hargrove, in an email to the news outlet, reportedly said the retailer will still sell the publication in its magazine aisles.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Lululemon Athletica Inc. reported adjusted diluted earnings per share in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 28 rose to $1.33 from $1.00 a year earlier, beating an S&P Capital IQ mean consensus estimate for normalized EPS of $1.27. Adjusted income from operations climbed 31% year over year to $258.1 million. For the fiscal year, the athletic apparel retailer reported adjusted diluted EPS climbed to $2.59 from $2.14. It said it expects to deliver adjusted diluted EPS in the range of $3.00 to $3.08 for the year ending Jan. 31, 2019.
* Louis Vuitton, fashion brand of French luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, plans to open two new workshops in France to adapt to the growing demand for its leather goods and handbags, Reuters reported. The company will open one of the sites by July 2018, followed by the opening of two more workshops in early and late 2019, the report added, citing industrial director Emmanuel Mathieu.
* Billabong International Ltd. shareholders approved the proposed acquisition of the apparel retailer after Boardriders Inc., which owns activewear label Quiksilver, increased its offer price to A$1.05 per share from A$1 per share, subject to court approval.
* South Korean fashion retailer Shinsegae Inc. will establish a center in the city of Hanam that will house its recently spunoff e-commerce unit in a move to better compete with rivals including Amazon.com Inc., Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin told Yonhap News Agency. The decision comes after Shinsegae announced its plan to consolidate its discount store chain operator E-Mart Inc. as well as the online businesses of its department store segment.
* Amazon.com Inc. is considering either partnering or acquiring Via Varejo SA, owned by French retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA, an unnamed source told Reuters, which added that the two companies have been in talks over Casino's Brazilian subsidiary since January. The news agency earlier reported, citing O Globo, that the companies were looking at "some kind of partnership" for Via Varejo, which sells furniture, consumer electronics, appliances and mobile phones through physical and online stores.
HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
* Consumer goods giant Unilever NV, along with food conglomerates Nestlé SA and Kraft Heinz Co., expressed interest in buying the health nutrition unit Horlicks from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The unnamed sources told the news outlet that a sale of the Horlicks business might garner more than $4 billion. GSK reportedly started a strategic review of Horlicks, and some of its smaller products, after agreeing to pay $13 billion for Novartis AG stake in the companies' consumer healthcare joint venture.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* A tie-up between supermarket retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA and Amazon.com Inc. to deliver groceries to Parisians appears unlikely to have a material impact on the French company, analysts said. The deal will see thousands of products from Casino's Monoprix chain of stores offered to customers of Amazon Prime Now, the U.S. online retail giant's superfast delivery service, in the French capital and its neighborhoods. Analysts at UBS wrote in a March 27 research note that typical Amazon Prime and Monoprix customers are demographically similar, urban and wealthy, so they doubt the likelihood of a new addressable market or "any meaningful cash flow impact."
* U.K. food retailer J Sainsbury PLC will roll out its flagship Tu clothing line at its catalog retail subsidiary Argos beginning April 25, Retail Gazette reported, citing CEO Mike Coupe. Sainsbury's reportedly also will offer next-day delivery services and free returns for products ordered through Argos online portal.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Troubled gunmaker Remington Outdoor Co. Inc. received approval from a Delaware bankruptcy court to take out a $75 million interim loan from its current lenders, allowing the company to reduce its $775 million debt during the proceedings, Reuters reported. Although U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon was convinced that the funding will avoid "disruption" to the business, sources told the news outlet that the loan will leave Remington's creditors with large losses, possibly leading to legal proceedings.
* The Chinese government will release a list of countermeasure tariffs on U.S. exports as early as April 3 after the administration of President Donald Trump "made some unreasonable demands" during the countries' talks on trade disputes, the Global Times reported. The tariff retaliation reportedly will "hurt" the U.S. more as it will affect the country's exports, employment and economy.
* The U.K. government plans to roll out a deposit-return scheme for single-use drink containers as part of its drive to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste littering the land and the sea. The government is also considering alternatives such as a cash reward program wherein consumers will use reverse-vending machines that will return money if they insert a used glass or plastic bottle in the device.
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US tariffs on Chinese imports loom; business community on edge
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 2.34% to 30,070.29, and the Nikkei 225 was down 1.34% to 21,031.31.
In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.17% to 6,987.95, and the Euronext 100 had fallen 0.68% to 995.15.
On the macro front
The Bank Reserve Settlement report, the MBA mortgage applications report, the GDP report, the international trade in goods report, the pending home sales index, the EIA petroleum status report and the Farm prices report are due out today.
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