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General Mills to buy Blue Buffalo for $7.81B; Report: Fosun buys Lanvin stake

TOP NEWS

* Food manufacturer General Mills Inc., maker of Cheerios breakfast cereals and Haagen-Dazs ice creams, agreed to acquire Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. for $7.81 billion, or $40 per share in cash. The move expands General Mills' portfolio in the pet food category. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the food company's fiscal year to May 2018 and is subject to regulatory approvals.

* Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. bought a majority stake in French luxury fashion brand Lanvin for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reported. Current Lanvin shareholders reportedly will retain a minority ownership. The conglomerate will invest about €100 million in Lanvin, Reuters added, citing a source close to the matter.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* The bankruptcy of Toys R Us might not benefit Target Corp., whose CEO, Brian Cornell, previously said the company "is playing to win in toys," according to four investors of the U.S. general merchandise retailer who spoke to Reuters. The investors want Target to focus instead on private-label brands, expand its e-commerce business and open more outlets around urban centers, Reuters added.

* South Korean department store operator Shinsegae Inc.'s retail unit E-mart Traders expects to garner sales worth 1.9 trillion won and open one or two new shops in 2018, The Korea Herald reported. E-mart, which operates 14 stores across South Korea, reportedly posted sales of 1.52 trillion won in 2017, up 27.2% year over year.

E-COMMERCE

* Amazon.com Inc. may open as many as six additional Amazon Go cashierless stores by the end of 2018, Recode reported. The new stores will likely launch in Seattle and Los Angeles, according to the report. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Units of China's Tencent Holdings Ltd. and JD.com Inc. bought stakes in Hunan-based chain store operator Better Life Commercial Chain Share Co. Ltd., Reuters reported, citing a Better Life filing to the Shenzen stock exchange. The tech giant, via its unit, reportedly took a 6% ownership in the company for 886.9 million Chinese yuan, while the e-commerce company's subsidiary bought a 5% stake for 739.1 million yuan.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Consumer goods maker Procter & Gamble Co. has streamlined its marketing spending over the past year in an effort to keep its ads away from "objectionable content" and reach more consumers, its top executive said. The company found that up to 20% of its marketing budget was being spent on efforts that were duplicative or did not meet company expectations, P&G Chairman, CEO and President David Taylor told an audience at a conference. P&G has since reallocated part of its marketing spending, a move that Taylor said has expanded the number of customers it reaches by 10%.

FOOD RETAILING

* French dairy products company Danone put NZ$25 million into its infant formula plant in Auckland, New Zealand, as it aims to double production output for exports to other markets, including Australia and China, FoodBev Media reported. Australia remains Danone New Zealand's "number one export destination," Cyril Marniquet, New Zealand operations director for Danone's early life nutrition unit, reportedly said.

* Japan's Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. plans to grant flexible working hours to its employees in a bid to boost productivity, The Japan Times reported. The initiative, to be rolled out to 500 workers at its headquarters from March 1, reportedly will enable them to begin work at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. without reducing the shift duration of 7 hours and 45 minutes. Seven & I further expects to expand it in April or in the following months to some 9,000 workers at its convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan Co., the newspaper added.

SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Consumer and commercial products company Newell Brands Inc. unveiled its post-acquisition transformation initiatives, which include simplifying its portfolio and operations. The company, the parent of brands including Sharpie and Coleman, said it expects to have nine core consumer divisions following a series of potential divestitures. Its divestiture plan is expected to generate approximately $6 billion after taxes, and approximately two-thirds of the proceeds will be used to reduce debt, the statement added.

* U.S. home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. Inc. will start a skill development program beginning March 1 that will provide financial support and career alternatives to its workers. Some of the planned benefits include academic coaching and a tuition fee grant of up to $2,500 to pursue a trade skill certification. Lowe's will roll out its Track to the Trades program in select cities initially, followed by a nationwide launch by 2018-end for eligible part-time and full-time employees.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* U.K. retail sales growth slowed for the third consecutive month in February, the Confederation of British Industry said in its latest quarterly distributive trades survey. According to the survey, the 8% rise in the month was less than the 12% growth in January, hurt by a decline in sales in department stores and retailers selling clothing, footwear and leather as well as furniture and carpets.

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