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Alibaba to acquire stake in STO Express; Walmart awards $207M staff bonuses


Alibaba to acquire stake in STO Express; Walmart awards $207M staff bonuses

TOP NEWS

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. plans to acquire a 49% stake in a new unit that will control 29.9% of STO Express Co. Ltd. for 4.66 billion Chinese yuan, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a filing from the Chinese logistics company. The new unit will be formed by Shanghai Deyin Investment Holding Co. Ltd., which holds about 54% of STO Express. Alibaba entered into a framework agreement with Deyin, which will transfer a combined 46% stake in the company to two new units, including one that will partially control STO Express, the report said.

* Walmart Inc. awarded nearly $207 million in cash bonuses to its staff across California, Arizona, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. The bonuses, which were given via paychecks received March 7, come after Walmart posted a comparable sales growth of 4.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Calvin Klein Inc. may turn over part of its jeans business to G-III Apparel Group Ltd., Women's Wear Daily reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Sources reportedly said Calvin Klein is in search of a person to fill the president role in its women's jeans unit, which may allow G-III to grab the Calvin Klein Jeans women's license for North America from the PVH Corp.-owned company. If a deal pushes through, Calvin Klein will retain ownership of its jeans business in Europe, the report added. G-III chairman and CEO Morris Goldfarb reportedly could not be reached for comment, while a PVH spokesperson said the company does not comment on rumors.

* Superdry PLC said its board unanimously recommended that shareholders reject the appointments of co-founders Julian Dunkerton and James Holder as directors. In a stock exchange filing, Superdry pointed out that "Dunkerton's return would have damaging business impacts" to the company, including the reintroduction of a non-collaborative culture and "dysfunctional relationships" between the board and management. The retailer also noted that Dunkerton was in charge of its autumn/winter line that underperformed in 2018, but he denied any involvement with the project "despite extensive and detailed evidence to the contrary."

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Big Lots Inc. posted adjusted diluted EPS of $4.04 for fiscal 2018, down from $4.45 in 2017 but above the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $3.66. Net sales came in at $5.24 billion, versus $5.26 billion in the previous year, due to a lower store count and an additional week of operations in 2017, partially offset by a 1.2% growth in comparable store sales. Big Lots expects adjusted diluted EPS to range between $3.55 and $3.75 for fiscal 2019. The general merchandiser's board also approved a share repurchase program for up to $50 million of the company's shares.

* Debenhams PLC may raise the amount of its refinancing to fend off Sports Direct International PLC's attempts to take control of the company, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. A source reportedly said the struggling department store chain, which secured funding of £40 million from Li & Fung Ltd. in February, wants to make the refinancing "as watertight as possible." Debenhams confirmed that it is in advanced negotiations with lenders to secure additional facilities of about £150 million, according to a stock exchange filing.

E-COMMERCE

* Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is running for president in 2020, released a blog post detailing how she would like to break up big tech companies — specifically Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC — if she is elected to the White House. Specifically, she said the regulators would use existing tools to undo mergers deemed anti-competitive, such as Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram Inc. and WhatsApp Inc.; Google's purchases of DoubleClick Inc., Waze Inc. and Nest Labs Inc.; and Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* Asda Stores Ltd. will remove single kitchen knives from all its stores by the end of April due to "rising concerns about knife crime in the U.K.," particularly among children and young people. "We know single knives are the most common knife products to be stolen and that is why we have chosen to remove these items from our stores," Nick Jones said, senior vice president of the Walmart Inc.-owned company.

* Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. reported that total sales at Seven-Eleven Japan rose 4.2% year over year in February as same-store sales grew 0.9%. Customer numbers declined 0.4% from the year-ago period but average customer spending increased by 1.3%. Seven-Eleven Japan had a total of 20,876 stores during the month, versus 20,733 in January.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Metro AG is in talks with about five parties for the sale of its loss-making hypermarket chain Real, Reuters reported, citing CEO Olaf Koch. Koch reportedly said the German company aims to sign a deal by April or May.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Specialty retailer Enesco LLC said it has completed its acquisition of Things Remembered Inc., saving about 1,400 jobs. Enesco will run Things Remembered's online business, direct mail operations, business-to-business retail segment and 176 of its physical stores. The Ohio-based personalized gifts retailer expected to close about 400 of its locations when it filed for bankruptcy protection in January. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

HOTELS, RESORTS AND CRUISE LINES

* Chinese hotel operator GreenTree Hospitality Group Ltd. disclosed that it has subscribed to shares of Zhejiang New Century Hotel Management Co. Ltd.'s IPO for $29.2 million, which will give GreenTree a 4.95% stake in the company once its offering is complete. New Century Hotel Management runs 150 hotels across 22 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China. GreenTree expects its investment to create potential collaboration opportunities between the two companies in the country's mid-scale to upscale hotel segment.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Imports of retail goods at U.S. ports reached the lowest levels in nearly a year as scheduled tariff spikes on Chinese goods remain on hold, according to the National Retail Federation. The industry group said in its monthly "Global Port Tracker" report with maritime consulting firm Hackett Associates that 1.89 million 20-foot-equivalent units of retail goods were imported in January. The number is a 3.7% monthly decrease from December 2018 and the lowest monthly import total since March 2018. Still, that January figure marked a 7.4% year-over-year increase.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.97% to 28,503.30. The Nikkei 225 gained 0.47% to 21,125.09.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 gained 0.75% to 7,157.46 and the Euronext 100 was up 0.28% to 1,016.53.

On the macro front

The retail sales and the business inventories reports 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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