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Lampert wins bankruptcy auction for Sears; Reckitt Benckiser CEO to retire


* Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Eddie Lampert won the auction for the department store chain after the hedge fund manager raised his takeover bid to about $5.2 billion, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The offer will enable Sears to keep its 425 U.S. stores open and save up to 45,000 jobs. One of the sources reportedly said a group of creditors is objecting to the deal, which is scheduled for an approval hearing with a bankruptcy judge this week.

* U.K.-based consumer goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC CEO Rakesh Kapoor will retire by the end of 2019. Kapoor has spent 32 years at the maker of Nurofen painkillers and Durex condoms in a variety of roles. He was promoted to CEO in September 2011, taking over from Bart Becht. One of Kapoor's most notable actions as CEO was the 2017 acquisition of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., a $16.6 billion deal. Reckitt Benckiser's board of directors said it has initiated the process of appointing Kapoor's successor and will consider both internal and external candidates.


* Payless ShoeSource Inc. has hired investment bank PJ Solomon to help explore strategic options, including a possible sale or restructuring of the business, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Sources reportedly said Payless, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2017, may also consider closing about 1,000 of its stores or filing for bankruptcy a second time. Representatives for Payless and PJ Solomon did not respond to a request for comment, the report added.

* Nike Inc. unveiled the Nike Adapt BB platform, which features basketball shoes that provide users a custom fit through a power-lacing system run by an app and continually updated firmware. The self-lacing shoes are equipped with the footwear giant's FitAdapt system that uses motor and gear train senses, allowing Nike Adapt to adjust to fit the wearer's foot. The technology also enables users to loosen or tighten the shoes' fit and customize colors by manual touch or with the Nike Adapt app. The Nike Adapt BB system will be available for $350 beginning Feb. 27 and will be tested further before being adapted for other sports.


* Nordstrom Inc. reported comparable sales growth of 1.3% for the nine weeks to Jan. 5. During the holidays, comparable sales rose 0.3% year over year in full-price and 3.9% in off-price, while digital sales increased 18% from the same period a year ago. Nordstrom now expects diluted EPS for fiscal 2018 to come in at the low end of its prior guidance range of $3.55 to $3.65, excluding the impact from the third quarter estimated non-recurring credit-related charge of $0.28.


* Inc. posted two job listings for its existing New York offices months after it announced that the company will establish one of its headquarters in Long Island City, Bloomberg News reported. The e-commerce giant is seeking a software development manager and a software engineer as it focuses further on cloud computing, advertising and fashion. But, the job listings were subsequently removed following journalists' inquiries. "We haven't posted roles in our Long Island City headquarters yet, but we're excited to kick off our recruiting process later in 2019," Amazon reportedly said.

* Amazon launched its own pet food brand, Lifelong, on its U.K. platform. Lifelong offers dry and wet food with no artificial coloring, flavors or preservatives for dogs and cats.

* Amazon has signed an agreement with Vietnam's trade ministry to allow local businesses to join the Amazon Global Selling network, DealStreetAsia reported. The e-commerce pact reportedly grants Vietnamese businesses access to Amazon's base of customers and buyers across the U.S., Japan and Europe. The partnership marks Amazon's first e-commerce operation in the country, the report said.

* Airbnb Inc. is profitable on an adjusted basis for the second year in a row as anticipation for its IPO in 2019 grows, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. The home-rental company, which did not disclose financial figures like revenue and profit, reportedly expects more than 500 million guest arrivals at its listings by the end of the first quarter of 2019.


* Colgate-Palmolive Co. will relaunch a new version of its Colgate Total toothpaste, one that no longer contains the substance triclosan, Bloomberg News reported. The company is expected to hold a launch party on Jan. 31 and release a Super Bowl commercial. Spokesman Thomas DiPiazza reportedly did not respond to questions about whether Colgate was removing triclosan due to regulatory scrutiny or health concerns.


* Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Microsoft Corp. entered into a seven-year agreement that will see the two companies leverage their assets and technology to create platforms aimed at improving health outcomes and lowering the cost of care across the globe. The deal seeks to leverage Microsoft Azure, the tech giant's cloud and artificial intelligence platform, healthcare investments and new retail solutions with Walgreens' customer reach, convenient locations and outpatient healthcare service. The two companies aim to develop innovative platforms that enable next-generation health networks, integrated digital-physical experiences and care management solutions.

* Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said its president, Sarah Davis, will take on the added responsibility of overseeing the company's management board and expanding her direct-reporting lines to include the finance and human resources divisions. Davis will continue to report to Galen Weston, who becomes the company's executive chairman.

* CVS Health Corp. said Walmart Inc. decided to leave drugstore networks operated by its pharmacy benefit management unit, CVS Caremark, due to disagreements over pricing. The exit only covers Walmart's participation in the CVS Caremark commercial network and the Managed Medicaid pharmacy network. It does not affect the company's participation in the CVS Caremark Medicare Part D pharmacy network, in its Sam's Club division or in any of the drugstore networks.

* Nestlé SA announced measures it will take to meet its commitment to phase out all plastics that are not recyclable or are hard to recycle for all its products worldwide by 2025. Starting in February 2019, the Swiss food giant intends to eliminate all plastic straws from its goods and replace them with straws made from paper and other materials. As part of that plan, it will begin rolling out paper packaging for its Nesquik products and Smarties candy in 2019. The company also plans to increase the recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, content in its bottles to 35% by 2025 at the global level and 50% in the U.S.


* A consortium led by midmarket private equity firm BGH Capital increased its cash takeover offer for Australia-based education services provider Navitas Ltd. to A$5.825 per share from an earlier per-share price of A$5.50. The revised bid reflects an increase of 32.5 Australian cents per Navitas share from the initial offer and a 34% premium to the company's stock price on Oct. 9, 2018.


* Consumer spending in the U.K. declined 1% year over year in December 2018, the biggest drop since April, and exceeded the 0.7% decrease recorded in November, as the country moved closer to leaving the EU, Reuters reported. British blue chip stocks also fell after Prime Minister Theresa May lost the Brexit deal vote, according to a separate Reuters report. The FTSE 100 Index, which lagged its European counterparts, reportedly was down 0.1%, while the domestically focused FTMC was up 0.4% and Ireland's ISEQ 20 increased 0.5%.

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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 0.27% to 26,902.10, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.55% to 20,442.75.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 decreased 0.51% to 6,859.68, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.03% to 934.88.

On the macro front

The MBA mortgage applications report, the housing market index report, the EIA petroleum status report and the Beige book 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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