* Unilever Group published prospectuses for the merger of its two listed entities, Unilever NV and Unilever PLC, as the consumer goods giant seeks to execute plans to simplify its corporate structure and consolidate its headquarters in the Netherlands. According to the documents, the shares of the Amsterdam- and London-listed businesses will cease trading Friday, Dec. 21, while dealings in shares of the combined company, to be known as Unilever NV, will commence Monday, Dec. 24. The merger is subject to conditions including the approval of shareholders in the current listed entities and applicable regulatory consents.
* As expected, Hudson's Bay Co. agreed to merge its European operations with Signa Holding GmbH subsidiary Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH, with the Canadian department store chain set to hold a 49.99% stake in the combined entity. Karstadt CEO Stephan Fanderl will lead the merged company, which includes the Galeria Kaufhof and Karstadt banners, and HBC and Signa will share six seats on its board. As part of the deal, Signa and HBC will also form a 50-50 joint venture that will operate the Canadian firm's German real estate assets.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* JD Sports Fashion PLC reported that it is on track to reach market expectations for fiscal 2019 after its basic EPS for the first half met estimates. For the 26 weeks ended Aug. 4, the activewear retailer posted basic EPS of 10.05 pence, a 24% growth from 8.09 pence in the year-ago period and slightly above the S&P Global Market Intelligence estimate of 10 pence compiled from one analyst. Meanwhile, revenue rose 35% year over year to £1.85 billion, and profit before tax went up 19% year over year to £121.9 million.
* Ted Baker PLC agreed to acquire No Ordinary Shoes Ltd. and No Ordinary Shoes USA LLC from footwear maker Pentland Group PLC for £13 million, plus an anticipated adjustment for net assets of between £4 million and £8 million. The agreement enables Ted Baker to bring its production back in-house, ending its 17-year license partnership with Pentland.
* Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. plans to establish a manufacturing site in Indonesia as early as November to curb personnel expenses, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The Japanese company intends to establish start-to-finish production operations in the region in collaboration with partners such as textile producer Toray Industries Inc.
* Amazon.com Inc. submitted trademark applications for eight apparel lines in June and August, according to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The brands include League of Outstanding Kids, Zanie Kids, Common District, Outerwear Index Co., Night Swim, Afterthought, Due East Apparel and Truity. Amazon did not immediately reply to S&P Global Market Intelligence's requests for comment regarding its plans.
* Lands' End Inc., a former business unit of Sears Holdings Corp., will open its first stand-alone store Sept. 15 in New Jersey. The apparel retailer's new location will have a parking area and restaurant options aside from its main shopping space, which will feature digital capabilities such as a digital kiosk and access to check out anywhere.
* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will form an e-commerce joint venture in Russia under a strategic partnership with mobile operator MegaFon, internet company Mail.ru Group Ltd. and Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Russian government's sovereign wealth fund. As part of the deal, Alibaba will contribute its AliExpress Russia business, composed of online retail service AliExpress and business-to-consumer marketplace Tmall, to the joint venture. The Chinese e-commerce giant will also infuse cash and other resources into the venture, in which it will retain a 48% stake.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. will purchase pharmacy patient prescription files and other related inventory of 185 Fred's Inc. stores across 10 Southeastern states. Walgreens will pay $165 million under the asset purchase deal, in addition to an amount equal to the value of the related pharmacy inventory of Fred's, which is selling off noncore assets to eliminate debt.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Sonos Inc. reported that revenue for the third quarter of 2018 fell 6.6% year over year to $208.4 million, despite an 11.4% increase in items sold due to the launch of its Playbase TV speaker and overall product mix. For the three months ended June 30, the smart-speaker maker posted a net loss per share attributable to common shareholders of 45 cents, compared with a loss of 26 cents in the year-ago period. Sonos, which raised $95.8 million in gross proceeds from its IPO, now expects revenue for fiscal 2018 to be about $1.11 billion.
* Sony Corp. plans to use 100% renewable electricity across all its businesses by 2040 as part of its "Road to Zero" plan to eliminate the company's environmental footprint by 2050. Sony has joined RE100, an initiative operated by the international nongovernment organization The Climate Group and the nonprofit CDP that comprises more than 140 companies committed to using 100% renewable electricity. Sony, which already uses renewable energy to power all its European operations, will extend the program to North America and China.
* Amer Sports Corp. confirmed that it has received a notice of interest from footwear maker ANTA Sports Products Ltd. and private equity firm FountainVest Partners to acquire the sports equipment company. Amer Sports said it is "not engaged in any negotiations" with the interested parties and that it has not made any decisions regarding the notice.
HOTELS, CASINOS AND GAMING
* MCO (Philippines) Investments Ltd., a business unit of Melco International Development Ltd. subsidiary Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., launched a tender offer to buy shares it does not already own in Melco Resorts and Entertainment (Philippines) Corp. MCO, which owns about 72.77% of MRP, is offering to acquire the shares at 7.25 Philippine pesos each. MRP received board approval to delist its shares from the Philippine Stock Exchange after it was unable to "raise funds despite considerable efforts and expenses."
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng dropped 0.72% to 26,422.55, while the Nikkei 225 rose 1.30% to 22,664.69.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.63% to 7,233.61, and the Euronext 100 shed 0.27% to 1,030.63.
On the macro front
The Redbook Index for retail sales and the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey are due out today. The National Federation of Independent Business' index of small business optimism increased to 108.8 in August from 107.9 in July.
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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