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Unilever Q3 revenue up 5.8% YOY; WH Smith to acquire Marshall Retail for $400M

TOP NEWS

* The Unilever Group reported that third-quarter revenue jumped 5.8% year over year even though underlying sales growth was below expectations due to softening growth in China and India, nearly flat growth in North America, and a small decline in Europe. The maker of Dove soap and Magnum ice cream said revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to €13.25 billion from €12.53 billion, reversing a year-over-year decline of 4.8% 12 months ago.

* Travel retailer WH Smith PLC agreed to buy Las Vegas-based The Marshall Retail Group LLC for $400 million, in a bid to expand its travel business segment. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020, subject to shareholder approval. The British company also raised its total ordinary dividend by 8% to 58.2 pence after reporting that headline EPS for fiscal 2019 grew 6% to £1.15 from £1.08 in 2018, short of the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate £1.16.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Bankrupt fashion retailer Barneys New York Inc. has reached a rescue deal to sell its assets to Authentic Brands Group LLC and investment firm B. Riley Financial Inc., according to a filing to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Barneys and the buyers entered into a stalking horse asset purchase agreement for all of Barneys' assets in a deal worth approximately $271.4 million. After the sale, the buyers will close all of Barneys' seven remaining stores: three in New York, three in California and one in Boston.

* American Eagle Outfitters Inc. plans to hire nearly 10,000 part-time workers on Oct. 20 for its American Eagle and Aerie stores ahead of the holidays.

* Maker of Italian shoes and leather goods Tod's SpA named Walter Chiapponi its creative director, beginning from its autumn-winter 2020-2021 collections, Reuters reported, citing a company statement.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* Nestlé SA plans to distribute up to CHF20 billion, or $20.1 billion, in cash to shareholders as it reported a 2.9% year-over-year growth in total sales for the first nine months of 2019. The Swiss food giant reaffirmed its full-year guidance for 2019, projecting a 3.5% increase in organic sales growth, full-year underlying trading operating profit margin at or above 17.5% and an increase in underlying EPS in constant currency.

* Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said its medication disposal kiosk program has safely collected more than 885 tons of unwanted prescriptions as of Aug. 31. The company offers drug disposal options at nearly 1,500 of its kiosks across the U.S.

* Convenience store operator Casey's General Stores Inc. named former CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc. COO Tom Brennan as its chief merchandising officer.

* Food retailer X5 Retail Group NV reported that total net retail sales for the third quarter rose 12.8% year over year to 420.71 billion Russian rubles from 372.93 billion rubles, with a 3.9% growth in like-for-like sales. Retail sales climbed 13.4% in its Pyaterochka stores and 18% in its Perekrestok outlets, offsetting the 2.6% decline in its Karusel unit.

* Asda Stores Ltd. workers submitted a petition to the U.K. grocer that has obtained more than 24,000 signatures and was organized by the GMB union, Retail Gazette reported. The petition opposes the company's new contract that will lead to staff losing their paid breaks and would require them to work bank holidays. However, Asda has since denied reports that it is laying off 12,000 employees who have not signed the new contract, adding that it received the support of the "overwhelming majority" of its workers, the report said.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Shares of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Corp. rose as much as 4.2% following the decision of the country's Supreme Court to uphold a ruling that Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin will remain out of jail after serving his sentence for bribery charges, Reuters reported. "We will try to become a trustworthy company as we contribute to the nation and society," Lotte Group reportedly said in a statement.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Travel group Thomas Cook Group PLC's German unit withdrew its state bridging loan application over "legal reasons" but is still in talks with investors for a possible rescue deal, Reuters reported, citing the company's liquidator. Insolvency administrators from law firm Hermann Wienberg reportedly said the application needed to be amended, but it did not clarify if the embattled company will file a new application.

* German consumer electronics chain Ceconomy AG CEO Jörn Werner, who was appointed in March, will be removed from the role after clashing with Media-Saturn-Holding GmbH head Ferran Reverter over future strategies, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the company. Ceconomy reportedly confirmed that the supervisory board will discuss the possible early termination of Werner but did not give further details.

* Electronics company Panasonic Corp. named Yoky Matsuoka, former vice president of Google LLC, as CEO of its Panasonic β business unit. Matsuoka will be based in Silicon Valley in California.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* U.S. retail sales unexpectedly declined for the first time in seven months in September, boosting the chances of another interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve in October amid rising fears that the economic growth slowdown is spreading into the consumer sector. Seasonally and calendar-adjusted U.S. retail and food services sales slipped 0.3% to $525.56 billion in September from $526.89 billion in August, advance data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng jumped 0.69% to 26,848.49, while the Nikkei 225 dropped 0.09% to 22,451.86.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.58% to 7,209.21, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.60% to 1,098.22.

On the macro front

The housing starts report, the jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey, the industrial production report, the EIA natural gas report, the EIA petroleum status report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply 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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