* Papa John's International Inc. appointed Olivia Kirtley the chair of the pizza chain's board of directors, following the resignation of founder John Schnatter. Kirtley, who has been serving as the board's lead independent director since 2017, was appointed by unanimous vote. Papa John's added that the board is still searching for additional independent directors.
* Heineken NV slashed its guidance for 2018 operating profit margin on the back of currency headwinds and the negative impact of a marked acceleration of its business in Brazil. Heineken now forecasts that its full-year operating profit margin would fall by approximately 20 basis points, compared with a previous guidance of a 25-basis-point increase. Heineken reported profit attributable to equity holders of €950 million, or €1.67 per share, in the first six months of 2018, compared with a restated €871 million, €1.53 per share, in the same period a year ago. Before exceptional items and amortization of acquisition-related intangible assets, net profit came in at €1.08 billion, or €1.89 per share, compared with €1.04 billion, or €1.82 per share, in the first half of 2017. The S&P Capital IQ consensus mean estimate for normalized EPS was €1.95.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Aldi GmbH & Co. KG's UK division launched an online spirit shop with 39 lines including liqueurs, gin, whiskey, rum and brandy, Inside FMCG reported. The supermarket's range also features some online exclusives, all of which will be sold in cases of six or more mixed with wine, the report said.
* Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. has recommended that drug retailer Rite Aid Corp. investors vote against a merger with grocery chain Albertsons Cos. Inc., Reuters reported. A number of Rite Aid shareholders had previously been said to be against the $24 billion merger over concerns that the deal undervalued the drug firm.
* Asda Stores Ltd.'s chief merchandising officer, Jesús Lorente, will leave the company at an undisclosed date, following the departure of CFO Alex Russo, the U.K. subsidiary of Walmart Inc. confirmed in an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence. In a note issued to employees, CEO Roger Burnley confirmed Lorente's departure, adding that Anthony Hemmerdinger will take on a new role of senior vice president of operations, managing the company's logistics and supply functions, while commercial functions will report to Burnley.
* Two Chinese companies are bidding for Pacific Equity Partners-owned Manuka Health, valuing the company at about $300 million, Reuters reported, citing a source with direct knowledge of the deal. According to a report from the Australian Financial Review, Beijing-based private equity investor CDH Investments is one of the bidders for the New Zealand-based honey maker. Neither CDH nor Manuka Health responded to a request for comment.
* The California Supreme Court ruled that the coffee giant Starbucks Corp. must pay its employees for off-the-clock work, setting a new standard for employers that pay by the hour in the state, The Wall Street Journal reported. The court ruling requires employers to track any extra tasks their employees perform, such as closing and locking stores. The decision came after a lawsuit was filed against Starbucks by an employee who was required to clock out before completing tasks such as sending sales information to corporate headquarters, activating an alarm system and locking the door. This added an additional 10 minutes to his work every day, resulting in an unpaid time of up to about $103 during his 17 months of employment, according to the court filings.
* The number of trademarks registered for spirits and liqueurs in the U.K. surged by 41% in 2017, The Guardian reported, citing figures by the law firm RPC. The number hit 2,210 in 2017, up from 1,570 in 2016, reflecting burgeoning demand for artisanal products and popularity of gin among consumers. Additionally, 39 artisanal gin distilleries opened in the U.K. in 2017 alone, the report added.
* U.S. farmers are likely to receive cash payments from a planned $12 billion aid package in late September, but the program will not make tariff-hit farmers whole, Reuters reported, quoting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The program includes cash for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. The program, which offers government purchases of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs, also promises a trade promotion program to develop new markets, the report added.
* European breweries are facing a shortage in supply of malting barley, following a spell of scorching weather conditions, the Financial Times reported. The price of European malting barley has risen by two-thirds since the middle of May to a five-year high of €230 per ton. Scandinavia, the Baltics, Germany and France are among the regions that produce the ingredient, which is used to ferment the brew and provide flavor and color. The production of the crop has dropped by as much as 50% in some regions and "in some places, the crops are just dying," the report added, quoting Scott Casey of RMI Analytics.
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Consumer boycott, transportation strikes hit Danone's Q2 sales, EBIT
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.25% to 28,733.13. The Nikkei 225 slid 0.74% to 22,544.84.
In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.07% to 7,696.08, and the Euronext 100 lost 0.30% to 1,077.55.
On the macro front
The pending home sales index is due out today.
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