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Amazon eyes closed Sears stores for Whole Foods; PepsiCo's CEO named chairman

TOP NEWS

* Amazon.com Inc. is considering locations that were previously home to Sears Holdings Corp., Kmart and other struggling stores to expand its grocery chain Whole Foods Market Inc., Yahoo Finance reported, citing sources. Whole Foods managers, according to unnamed sources, visited a site in Utah that used to host a Kmart store. Whole Foods did not respond to request for comment.

* PepsiCo Inc. named CEO Ramon Laguarta board chair, effective Feb. 1. Laguarta will succeed Indra Nooyi, who stepped down as the company's CEO in October 2018 but remained board chair until her retirement Feb. 1, according to a news release.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Tesco PLC and Marks and Spencer Group plc are stockpiling packaged and tinned foods in a bid to prepare for no-deal Brexit, following a busy Christmas period, The Guardian reported. Tesco, which, according to its CEO, Dave Lewis, is holding a special round of talks with its suppliers and increasing stocks of long-life groceries, cannot make similar arrangements for fresh food. Marks & Spencer CEO, Steve Rowe said the company has "taken some additional long-life stuff but the food business is 70% fresh and anything that slows down will contribute to cost and waste."

* Dutch food retailer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV said its Albert Heijn BV supermarket chain will launch a fresh-cooked meal delivery service, called Allerhande Kookt, in a large part of Amsterdam. Beginning Jan. 11, Albert Heijn customers can order meals that will be prepared by a chef-led team and delivered by Roofoods Ltd.'s Deliveroo and Takeaway.com NV-owned Thuisbezorgd.nl within half an hour. The new service rollout follows another partnership of the Ahold Delhaize subsidiary with Dutch food ordering company Thuisbezorgd.nl to test a similar service at two of its Amsterdam stores.

* French retail chain Carrefour SA said it will open another 31 of its Pedestrian Drive retail outlets in Paris by the end of January, taking the total number to 42 across Paris and the Lyon region. Pedestrian Drive stores, which are part of Carrefour's transformation plan, enable customers to place orders either on the Carrefour's online portal or on the mobile app and pick up their orders from a nearby store the next day.

* French food products company Danone said Veronique Penchienati-Bosetta, executive vice president of growth and innovation and member of the executive committee, will take over the role of executive vice president specialized nutrition, effective Jan. 10. Penchienati-Bosetta will succeed Bridgette Heller in the position, who is leaving the company due to personal reasons.

* South Korea's BGF retail CO. LTD. signed a memorandum of understanding with Delivery Hero Korea, an operator of the popular delivery app service Yogiyo, to offer nationwide delivery services for instant and prepared foods, The Korea Herald reported. The service will be launched in March and expanded across the country in steps. The company will initially offer delivery services for boxed lunches, or dosirak; triangle gimbab; and sandwiches and plans to add more options in the future, the report added.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

* Indian farmers are hoping Monsanto Co., a unit of Bayer Aktiengesellschaft will roll out its next-generation seeds GM seeds, following a court ruling that upheld the seed maker's patent on its genetically modified cotton seeds, Reuters reported. The farmers told Reuters that they do not mind paying "a few hundred rupees more for seeds if they help us in saving thousands of rupees on managing weeds." The agriculture ministry did not respond to Reuters' email seeking comment.

PACKAGED FOODS

* Nestlé SA will shut down its only Romanian factory in the western city of Timisoara by the end of May 2019, according to online news publication Profit.ro. The management informed employees of the intention to close the plant and started talks with the union and employees to find the solution for the 388 workers at the factory. 30 people employed at the Nestlé Regional Cost Competence Center in Timisoara remain unaffected and will continue to operate in a new location in the city center. The Timisoara plant has an annual production of 10,000 tons of coffee and sweets.

* International Dairy Queen Inc., owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., got a green signal from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to pursue its lawsuit against W.B. Mason Co., Inc.for selling "Blizzard" bottled spring water, the name of Dairy Queen's popular ice cream product, Reuters reported. Jason Kravitz, a lawyer for W.B. Mason, said it was disappointed with the outcome and the company will review its legal options, the report added. Sheldon Klein, a lawyer for Dairy Queen, declined to comment.

* Brazilian food company BRF SA said it agreed to divest its subsidiary Campo Austral SA, a producer of pork-based food in Argentina, in a $35.5 million deal. Under the agreement, BRF will sell 100% of the unit's shares, the brand "Campo Austral" and the San Andrés de Giles and Pilar facilities to Argentine company La Piamontesa de Averaldo Giacosa y Compañía SA. BRF said the completion of the deal, which is part of the company's restructuring plan to reduce debt, is subject to customary conditions.

RESTAURANTS

* Tim Hortons, a coffee chain owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc., officially moved to its new headquarters in Toronto's historic Exchange Tower at 130 King Street West. According to the release, the modern 65,000 square-foot space features an "ultimate Canadian kitchen," public work zones, town hall and training space as well as custom signage and wall décor.

* U.S. coffee giant Starbucks Corp. is installing needle-disposal boxes, or "sharps," in some high-risk bathrooms, after over 3,700 people signed a petition on Coworker.org, expressing their concern, the Business Insider reported. The restaurant chain's workers reported seeing used needles and blood in the bathroom and even getting pricked by improperly discarded syringes, which exposes them to HIV and hepatitis risk. Starbucks, according to the report, is exploring other solutions to address this issue as well.

* TriArtisan Capital Advisors LLC and Paulson & Co. Inc. are acquiring P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. in a deal scheduled to close in the first quarter, Bloomberg Markets reported, citing a private notice sent to investors. P.F. Chang's debt totaling more than $675 million will be taken out at par as part of the transaction. Pei Wei Asian Diner, Inc., another restaurant chain that spun off from P.F. Chang's, reportedly will remain under Centerbridge's ownership. Representatives for P.F. Chang's, TriArtisan and Paulson did not immediately respond to requests for comment, according to Bloomberg.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 0.55% to 26,667.27, and the Nikkei 225 increased 0.97% to 20,359.70.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.24% to 6,926.01, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.07% to 935.47.

On the macro front

The Baker-Hughes Rig Count report and the CPI consensus 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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