* U.S. packaged foods maker General Mills Inc. made cuts to its earnings forecast in the face of rising freight and commodity costs. General Mills now expects its fiscal 2018 adjusted EPS to be between flat and up 1% from $3.08 earned in fiscal 2017. Its previous guidance was an increase of 3% to 4%. Excluding one-time items, General Mills earned 79 cents per share in the fiscal third quarter ended Feb. 25, up from 72 cents per share a year earlier.
* Walmart Inc.'s investment in online marketplace Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd. will result in more competition in the local food sector as a large part of the investment will be routed to establish back-end food and grocery infrastructure, the Economic Times (India) reported. The infrastructure that will be built using part of the proposed investment includes food parks, cold chain, collection centers, sorting and grading facilities, centers for food excellence, and allied facilities, the report said, citing two industry executives with knowledge of the development.
FOOD RETAIL AND DISTRIBUTION
* U.S. grocery chain Albertsons Cos. Inc. said it amended an asset-based revolving credit agreement and a debt commitment letter under its proposed merger with drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp. The amendment to the credit agreement allows commitment of a term loan facility and a senior bridge facility and executes other modifications relating to the merger.
* Belgian brewer Anheuser-Busch Inbev SA/NV is considering launching its lager brand Beck's in India and relaunching its other brands to accelerate investment in the country, which the company expects to become the world's biggest beer-consuming market, The Economic Times (India) reported. The company's shipments into the country grew at a double-digit rate, making it one of the company's faster-growing territories, with Budweiser, Hoegaarden and Corona brands driving this growth, the report said, citing Anheuser-Busch India President Ben Verhaert.
* Beverage distributor Conviviality PLC said it will go bankrupt if it is not able to raise £125 million amid its third profit warning within a month, The Guardian reported. The company is in talks with investors to raise the amount through a share placing, which will aid in paying a tax bill of £30 million due in late March, finance overdue payments to creditors and repay a loan worth £30 million, the report said, citing the company.
* Starbucks Corp. intends to make its mobile ordering app available to all customers — not just loyalty program members — in a bid to curb slowing U.S. sales.
* Starbucks is also rolling out a project to develop a global solution to make it easier for coffee cups to be composted or recycled. The coffee chain teamed up with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge, which will provide accelerator grants to entrepreneurs working on more-sustainable cup solutions. Starbucks said it is committing $10 million for the project.
* Agricultural company Pairwise Plants plans to use a new technology called gene editing to introduce new traits in row crops, including corn and soybeans, Bloomberg News reported. The new traits can benefit consumers by making a vegetable healthier or by saving fruits vulnerable to diseases, the report said, citing Pairwise Chief Business Officer Haven Baker. The company also plans to use the technology in other food items that have not yet been genetically modified, including fruits and vegetables, the report said.
* German meal-kit retailer HelloFresh SE, which is owned by German e-commerce company Rocket Internet SE, acquired U.S.-based organic and vegan food home-delivery company Green Chef for an undisclosed amount. HelloFresh said it will get its first office and production facility in the U.S. state of Colorado and integrate Green Chef into its operations and culinary teams through the deal.
TOBACCO AND SMOKING PRODUCTS
* The Greek affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc. said it will halt all cigarette production and will only produce a smoke-free product called HEETS. Part of the tobacco giant's €300 million investment would see improvements in the Greek facility, including high-tech machinery that can produce 10,000 smoke-free units per minute.
* McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) Ltd., the Japanese subsidiary of U.S. fast-food chain McDonald's Corp., and Burger King, part of Canadian fast-food chain Restaurant Brands International Inc., plan to expand in Japan, Retail News Asia reported. McDonald's plans to open 150 to 200 new stores in the next three years, while Burger King plans to invest ¥5 billion to triple its number of Japanese outlets to 300, the report said.
* McDonald's Corp. revealed a line of coffee flavored like the sweet treat "turtles" — caramel and pecans dipped in chocolate that resemble the shape of the shelled reptile. McCafé Turtle will be available in chocolate, caramel and hazelnut flavors beginning in April.
THE DAY AHEAD
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 1.09% to 31,071.05, and the Nikkei 225 was up 0.99% to 21,591.99.
In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.60% to 6,996.71, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.92% to 1,014.11.
ON THE MACRO FRONT
The jobless claims report, the FHFA house price index, the PMI Composite Flash report, the leading indicators report, the EIA natural gas report, the Kansas City fed manufacturing index, the fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.
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