* Amazon.com Inc. removed a clause in its agreements with third-party sellers in the U.S. that prohibits them from offering their products at lower prices on competing platforms, the Financial Times (London) reported, citing a person with knowledge of the decision. The online retailer in 2013 dropped a similar policy in Europe after the U.K. and Germany launched probes into the clause, the report said. Amazon reportedly declined to comment. Also, the retail giant said it is hiring 3,000 remote workers in the U.S., CNBC reported, citing a job listing on the company's website. According to the job listing, the e-commerce giant will pay $15 per hour for the seasonal work-from-home jobs to support its customer service.
* Yum China Holdings Inc. said it entered into an agreement with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, and China National Petroleum Corp. to open more than 100 franchised restaurants at the oil and gas companies' fuel stations across China over the next three years. The announcement was made at an investor day in Shanghai, where it also unveiled its new growth initiatives for Pizza Hut and KFC. Among its strategies, Yum China said it is on track to expand the presence of KFC outlets in more than 1,000 cities. However, for fiscal 2019, KFC's restaurant margin will be impacted due to increased poultry prices and ongoing value promotions. For its Pizza Hut restaurants, Yum China said it will continue to roll out its revitalization program and improved brand positioning at the pizza chain. It added that Pizza Hut showed meaningful improvement in the first two months of 2019.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* The Romanian arm of Carrefour SA said it is strengthening its strategic partnership with Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC. Carrefour Romania said it plans to explore new avenues for e-commerce development through this collaboration and added that it is conducting biometric digital payment system trials at its Skanska supermarket in Bucharest.
* Uber Technologies Inc. is testing a virtual restaurants program where it will give fully equipped and commercial-grade kitchens on rent to businesses selling food on its delivery app Uber Eats in Paris, Bloomberg Quint reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. This move will put it in a competing position with CloudKitchens, a kitchen rental service, which has investment from Uber's former co-founder and board member Travis Kalanick.
* Australia's CUB Pty Ltd. said it will discontinue its plastic six-pack rings on beer cans and replace them with cardboard packaging. The company has tested the new packaging and is in production at its Abbotsford brewery and it will reach consumers in coming weeks. Also, the company will stop using 137 tons of plain shrink wrap each year on slabs of cans in coming weeks, as part of its commitment to produce 100% returnable packaging by 2025. This comes after the brewer stopped plastic six-pack rings at its Cascade brewery in Tasmania.
* U.K.-based soft-drink maker Britvic PLC said it named Joanne Wilson its chief financial officer. She replaces Mathew Dunn, who was poached by fashion retailer Asos PPLC in October 2018. Wilson is the CFO of consumer data company dunnhumby Ltd. and has held multiple financial and commercial roles at Tesco PLC.
* Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC, the U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, has partnered with agricultural-products maker Indigo Agriculture Inc. to focus on sustainable rice production. Under the partnership, Indigo will deliver 2.2 million bushels of its branded rice to the AB Inbev subsidiary. The branded rice, a key ingredient in the brewer's leading beers including Budweiser and Bud Light, will help reduce the company's water and nitrogen usage by 10% and enable it to achieve at least 10% savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to state benchmarks.
* Singapore-based agribusiness company Wilmar International Ltd. said it agreed to buy shares it does not already own in food ingredients producer Goodman Fielder for $180 million. The company will acquire the remaining 50% interest of FPW Singapore Holdings Pte. Ltd., which owns Goodman Fielder, from Oceanica Development Ltd., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong investment management company First Pacific Co. Ltd. Wilmar intends to fund the deal from internal sources.
* Danish dairy-products maker Arla Foods said it is targeting to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% per kilo of milk by 2030 and will work toward being carbon net zero by 2050. The company added that its sustainable dairy production strategy covers the entire value chain, including 10,300 farmers in Northern Europe. It will also explore commercial opportunities in the market to accelerate the change, its CEO Peder Tuborgh said.
* Private equity firm Gilde Healthcare Partners B.V. bought a majority stake in Dutch healthcare food supplier Eetgemak B.V., marking the first investment for its new €200 million healthcare-focused private equity fund. Eetgemak makes ready-to-eat meals for hospitals, home care groups, restaurants, caterers and others. The investment is expected to help Eetgemak expand in existing and new markets, including Belgium.
* Sodexo Inc. partnered with plant-based restaurant group Veggie Grill to target consumers, specifically college students, seeking more vegetable-centric food on university campuses, including UCLA, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington. Sodexo will introduce Veggie Grill products across select college and university locations during the 2019-2020 school year.
* Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. said it appointed David Mann senior vice president and chief legal officer. He replaces Rich Emmett, who is retiring as chief legal and human resources officer and will report to the group CEO Dave Hoffmann.
* The Indian government has cut royalties paid by local seed companies to Bayer AG-owned Monsanto Co. for its genetically modified cotton by 49% to 20 Indian rupees per 450-gram packet from 39 Indian rupees, Reuters reported, citing an order from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare. This is the third time that GM cotton prices have been cut in four years. Also, the government raised GM cotton seed prices by 1.43% to 710 rupees a packet. Amid falling cotton output, the cut could prompt Monsanto and other foreign seed companies to reduce their investment in the sector, the report said, citing Ram Kaundinya, director general of the Federation of Seed Industry of India.
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Shareholder proposals at McDonald's, Dunkin' appear at an end
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 1.46% to 28,920.87. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.79% to 21,503.69.
In Europe before midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.23% to 7,146.65 and the Euronext 100 was down 0.11% to 1,019.31.
On the macro front
The Redbook, Consumer Price Index and the NFIB small business optimism index 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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