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Sainsbury's claims CMA had deal review errors; 7-Eleven February sales fall 7.3%

TOP NEWS

* Supermarket chain J Sainsbury PLC is arguing that the U.K.'s competition watchdog made miscalculations in analyzing its merger with Walmart Inc.-owned Asda Stores Ltd., Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the situation. Sainsbury's claimed that the Competition and Markets Authority made errors in its analysis of the retailer's store networks, according to the report. The news outlet said a spokeswoman for Sainsbury's declined to comment. The report comes after the regulator notified the companies that it may reject their merger, stating that the agreement would result in "higher prices, a poorer shopping experience, and reductions in the range and quality of products offered."

* Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. reported that total sales of its overseas unit, 7-Eleven Inc., fell 7.3% year over year after gasoline sales sank 14.5%. Seven & i's Ito-Yokado general merchandise store chain posted a 1.8% decline in total sales in February. Meanwhile, the supermarket chain York-Benimaru saw total sales fall 0.5% year over year as same-store sales declined 2.3%. Seven & I Food Systems Co. Ltd., which operates the Denny's restaurant chain in Japan, reported that total sales in February fell 1.5% year over year.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA-owned food retailer Monoprix SA will expand its delivery partnership with Amazon.com Inc. in France after the service's successful debut in Paris, Casino Group CEO and chairman Jean-Charles Naouri told analysts during an earnings call. Naouri said Monoprix already has coverage of the entirety of Paris plus 40 neighboring cities, and the company is "working on the deployment without any geographical limitation apart from that presence of Monoprix with Amazon." The business unit also has collaborated with online supermarket Ocado Group PLC to offer next-day delivery to customers in the northern part of France, and a warehouse for the partnership is expected to open in 2020.

* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV has signed an agreement with a labor union to raise the salaries of Walmex workers, avoiding a strike scheduled March 20, Reuters reported, citing company statements. Under the agreement with the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos the Walmart Inc.-owned retailer reportedly will offer employees an average annual increase of 5.5% and an annual bonus tied to store performance.

* The Kroger Co. said it will launch its autonomous grocery delivery pilot to two of its stores in Houston. The ongoing trial of the self-driving delivery service, created in partnership with robotics company Nuro Inc., began in Arizona in August 2018 and will be available at its outlets on South Post Oak Road and Buffalo Speedway in the spring.

* Russian food retailer PJSC Magnit reported a 4.7% drop in net income for fiscal 2018 to 33.86 billion Russian rubles from 35.54 billion rubles in 2017. For the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2018, adjusted EBITDA decreased 0.2% to 91.43 billion rubles from 91.64 billion rubles in 2017. Meanwhile, net sales increased 8.2% to 1.237 trillion rubles from 1.144 trillion rubles in the previous year. The retailer added that it opened 2,049 stores in 2018.

* Tyson Foods Inc. said its beef and pork subsidiary has teamed up with DNA analytics and diagnostics firm IdentiGEN to trace beef back to the animal of origin, using the firm's DNA tracing technology. Tyson Fresh Meats will use this system to assure customers that its Open Prairie branded beef is sourced from cattle farms that meet specific requirements and has no added antibiotics and hormones.

BEVERAGES

* Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd., the Australian bottler of Coca-Cola Co., said it is not pursuing a bid for Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd.'s Lion Dairy & Drinks Pty. portfolio. The bottler reiterated that it is "comfortable with, and remains focused on," its current beverage portfolio. In October 2018, Kirin announced that it will start the sale process of its dairy products and beverages unit.

* Producer of distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins MGP Ingredients Inc. appointed Brandon Gall CFO and vice president of finance, effective April 1. Gall replaces Tom Pigott, who resigned from the positions to pursue other opportunities.

RESTAURANTS

* Restaurant Brands International Inc. said its Popeyes brand president Alexandre Santoro is transitioning to a new role and will now support the restaurant chain operator's supply chain business and assist with entry into new markets. Felipe Athayde, who joined the company in 2011, will replace Santoro.

* Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said it appointed Patricia Fili-Krushel and Scott Maw to its board, effective immediately. Both the director's initial term runs through the restaurant chain's annual meeting of shareholders in May. In addition, Chipotle added that Kimbal Musk will not stand for re-election to the company's board. Musk also is a Tesla Inc. director.

* Papa John's International Inc. appointed two independent directors — Michael Dubin and Jocelyn Mangan. Dubin is the CEO and founder of Unilever PLC's subscription razor service Dollar Shave Club Inc., while Mangan is the CEO and founder of social enterprise Him For Her.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.56% to 29,012.26, and the Nikkei 225 increased 0.77% to 21,450.85.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.56% to 7,225.49, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.90% to 1,046.14.

On the macro front

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the industrial production report, the consumer sentiment report, the JOLTS report, the Treasury international capital 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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