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FDA chief to meet e-cigarette CEOs; Green Growth plans C$2.8B takeover of Aphria


* U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a series of tweets that he plans to hold talks with CEOs of e-cigarette makers amid what he calls an "epidemic" of e-cigarette use among teenagers. In his tweets, Gottlieb suggested that some companies appear to be backing away from the commitments they have made to the FDA related to preventing the underage use of e-cigarettes. Gottlieb also said the agency's investigation into the vaping industry's marketing activities and other product-related issues continues.

* Xanthic Biopharma Inc., doing business as Green Growth Brands Ltd, plans to make an offer to buy Canadian cannabis company Aphria Inc. at a valuation of about C$2.8 billion. Under the proposed offer, Toronto-based Green Growth would give Aphria shareholders 1.5714 of Green Growth common shares for each Aphria share that it does not already own. The company also plans to raise C$300 million at a valuation of C$7 per share to fund the transaction. Separately, Aphria said its director and CEO Vic Neufeld will step down as independent chair of the board, to be replaced by Irwin Simon, effective Dec. 27.


* The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issued revised guidelines, stepping up scrutiny of online food and grocery operators such as Grofers International Pte Ltd. and BigBasket as well as food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which is controlled by Info Edge (India) Ltd., The Economic Times (India) reported. The regulator said it is taking this step as it cannot compromise on last-mile delivery and safety of food products. Food products offered for sale are liable to sampling at any point in the supply chain, and companies will also need to provide an indicative image of the food on their platforms, the report added.

* Food retailer Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição, trading as GPA SA, sold shares worth 217 million Brazillian reais in Brazil's Via Varejo SA, a unit of French retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon Société Anonyme, the company said. The shares sold are equivalent to 3.86% of Via Varejo's capital, according to the statement.


* Nestlé SA will enter the vegan market as it plans to roll out the Incredible Burger next spring, under the Garden Gourmet label, Bloomberg reported. The Swiss company's plant-based business is expected to garner more than 1 billion Swiss francs in sales within a decade, the report added, citing Laurent Freixe, CEO of the Americas region.

* COFCO International Ltd, a unit of China's state-owned food group COFCO Corp., said it appointed Wei Dong as CEO and board member of the company, effective immediately. According to a company's statement, the previous chairman Johnny Chi will continue as chairman of COFCO International, based at the company's headquarters in Geneva.

* Italian gourmet chocolate maker Venchi S.p.A. is looking to expand in Asia during 2019-2023, as it plans to double its stores in the next five years to 200, Reuters reported, citing a company statement. The company, which is set to open single-branded shops in Asia, especially in Japan and China, received €4 million funding for its Hong Kong subsidiary by Italy's internationalization agency SIMEST. The report added that Italian export agency SACE has guaranteed a €4.5 million loan issued to Venchi by Italian bank UniCredit, the report added.

* China relaxed its regulations on the transportation of breeder pigs and piglets in provinces affected by the African swine fever, Reuters reported, citing the agriculture ministry. The move, which came after Beijing reported more than 90 cases of the highly contagious disease since August, was made to ensure pig production and pork supplies, the ministry said on its website. The report added that breeder pigs and piglets from counties with no outbreaks of the disease will be allowed to be transported to other provinces.


* Mexican restaurant operator Alsea S.A.B. de C.V. said it completed its purchase of Spain's Grupo Vips for about €575 million. In a statement, the company said the combined sales at Alsea's Europe division, including this acquisition, will represent more than 35% of Alsea's total sales. In addition to the acquisition of corporate restaurants and franchisees, the operation also includes a food processing plant for Starbucks Corp. and a distribution center to support the entire supply chain and the growth of the group.

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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 0.10% to 25,504.20, while the Nikkei 225 declined 0.31% to 20,014.77.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 1.80% to 6,703.46, and the Euronext 100 was up 1.69% to 906.87.

On the macro front

The international trade in goods report, the retail inventories report, the wholesale inventories report, the Chicago PMI, the pending home sales index, the EIA Natural Gas Report, the EIA Petroleum Status Report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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