* Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. CEO and Chairman Juan Luciano said the company will not pursue "monster" acquisitions at the moment due to high valuations and competition, Reuters reported. Luciano admitted that ADM looked at a deal for grain merchant Bunge Ltd. but declined to comment on whether or not it made a formal bid. The company will pursue growth through smaller purchases and joint ventures. The news came shortly before ADM announced the acquisition of the 50% stake it did not previously own in U.K. food distributor Gleadell Agriculture. ADM also sealed a long-term partnership with Thai tapioca starch producer General Starch Ltd., gaining the exclusive rights to distribute General Starch's modified tapioca starch products in major European countries and in the Middle East and Africa region.
* British grocer Tesco PLC is renting refrigerated containers to increase its frozen food storage capacity in the event that the U.K. departs the European Union without a deal that covers trade, the Financial Times reported, citing an internal memo. Refrigerated containers that Tesco rented over the Christmas period "are now planned to stay on site for the rest of the year as part of a contingency plan due to Brexit," the newspaper reported, citing Tesco's communication to store managers. The FT said Tesco declined to comment on the report.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* French food retailer Carrefour SA said it will conduct an independent audit of all its slaughterhouses that supply products for its Carrefour, Carrefour Bio and Reflets de France brands. It will also install cameras, with a pilot being carried out in three slaughterhouses in collaboration with the Cooperi cooperative. The audits, according to the company, will check for compliance with the Animal Protection reference framework created by the Oeuvre d'Assistance aux Bêtes d'Abattoirs or OABA. The retailer aims to complete 84 audits by 2019-end and has signed agreements with fully independent inspection auditors OABA and Bureau Veritas to complete checks throughout 2019.
* Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV-owned The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC is set to launch self-driving grocery vehicles in the Greater Boston area in the spring of 2019. As part of an engagement with San Francisco-based startup Robomart, vehicles' RFID and computer vision technology will automatically record what customers select, emailing receipts within seconds. The checkout-free experience will only need customers to open and close the vehicle's doors, pick up the goods, and send the car on its way.
* Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. inked a five-year agreement with YUM! Brands Inc. to be Pizza Hut Australia's sole supplier of soft drinks, still and sparkling water, flavored milk, and juice, effective this month. Under the contract, Coca-Cola Amatil will sell its beverages in all 285 Pizza Hut branches in Australia and will begin within the month. The Australian drinks company's beverages will arrive at the restaurants with new cold drink equipment, the release said.
* India's Barista Coffee Company Ltd is "in advanced stage of talks" with Swiggy and another food platform to launch dark kitchens, a concept under which companies share their resources and increase their capacity to serve the food delivery market, India's Mint reported, citing CEO Puneet Gulati. The coffee company will sell food items cooked at its facility and distributed by the online aggregators through the food delivery platforms, the report added.
* Louis Dreyfus Co. BV is set to exit its dairy business by mid-2019, according to a company announcement. The move is in line with the company's strategy to exit noncore areas in a bid to focus on its core businesses, including investments in origination markets and expansion along the value chain in its key product lines, the company said. As part of its strategy to exit noncore areas, the company has divested both its fertilizers and inputs and its metals platforms in the past 18 months.
* U.K.'s Associated British Foods PLC affirmed its full-year earnings guidance, after reporting a 2% revenue growth in the quarter in all of its businesses — including grocery, agriculture and ingredients divisions — apart from sugar, which was 12% behind prior year. Grocery sales were up 3% at constant currency rate and 2% ahead of last year at actual exchange rates. The group's outlook was unchanged, with adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share for the year expected to be in line with last year.
* U.K.-based Premier Foods reiterated its full-year expectations despite reporting a 2.2% drop in sales to £255.6 million for the third quarter ended Dec. 29, 2018, down £5.8 million from the prior year, due to low sales of nonbranded Sweet Treats. For the period, the company's branded sales rose 0.2%, while nonbranded sales dipped 10.3%. International sales dived 27% in the quarter, as the business continued to work through the effects of high stocks of Cadbury cake in the Australian supply chain, while grocery sales fell 0.1%. Additionally, Premier Foods named its CFO, Alastair Murray, as acting chief executive officer, succeeding ousted CEO Gavin Darby.
* Dairy major Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, commonly known as Amul, filed a police report complaining that several people have fallen prey to fraudulent advertisements on the Google search platform offering Amul distributorship, The Quint reported. It also issued a legal notice to Google India seeking to stop such advertisements since they are "being misused to scam innocent individuals in the name of Amul." According to the company, the paid advertisements use keywords such as "Amul Franchisee," "Amul Parlor" and "Amul Distributor" and seek a registration fee but are out of radar once the money is paid.
* British cafe chain owner Patisserie Holdings PLC said its financial position is considerably worse than it initially thought. A forensic review of its accounts has identified "very significant manipulation" of its balance sheet and "thousands" of false entries into its ledgers. The company said it will be "some time" before it can provide restated accounts and a reliable trading forecast, and added that it is in discussions with its bankers to extend the standstill of its bank facilities beyond Jan. 18. Furthermore, Lee Ginsberg, nonexecutive director and deputy chairman, resigned to focus on other commitments.
* Whitbread PLC reported a 2.5% rise in total sales for the third quarter ended Nov. 29, 2018, and expects 2019 results to be in line with expectations. The company, which completed the £3.9 billion sale of Costa business to Coca-Cola Co. on Jan. 3, signaled weakness in the overall UK market due to uncertainty and inflation.
* The U.K.'s SSP Group PLC's fiscal first-quarter revenue grew 7.6% on a constant currency basis, with like-for-like sales up 2.5% for the quarter ended Dec. 31. Sales growth in Continental Europe was impacted by the recent protests in France toward the end of the quarter. The company said its net contract gains rose 3.8%. SSP reiterated its annual like-for-like sales growth expectation of between 2% and 3%.
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Grocery wholesale prices spike in December '18, likely to hit supermarket profit
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 0.54% to 26,755.63, while the Nikkei 225 was down 0.20% to 20,402.27.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.52% to 6,827.00, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.26% to 934.70.
On the macro front
The U.S. Housing starts report, the jobless claims report, the EIA natural gas 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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