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EssilorLuxottica chair feuds with vice chair; Levi's IPO priced above range

TOP NEWS

* Leonardo Del Vecchio, Luxottica Group SpA founder and now executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica SA, accused Executive Vice Chairman Hubert Sagnieres of attempting to gain control of the merger agreement, Reuters reported, citing Del Vecchio's statement to French newspaper Le Figaro. "Hubert Sagnieres only accepts what he himself has proposed, he refuses a proposal from anyone else," Del Vecchio reportedly said, adding that the Sagnieres is behaving "as if Essilor had bought Luxottica" since their first general assembly. "We learned with surprise and consternation about Delfin's statement and Mr. Del Vecchio's comment," a source close to Essilor told Reuters, while an EssilorLuxottica spokeswoman declined to comment. The news comes the same day as reports that EssilorLuxottica's top shareholder, Delfin SARL, accused Essilor executives of violating its 2017 merger agreement and governance rules. The entity, owned by the Del Vecchio family, also said it "reserves to take such actions as it will deem necessary or appropriate to protect its interest along with the interest of EssilorLuxottica and its stakeholders," according to Reuters.

* Levi Strauss & Co. priced its IPO of 36,666,667 class A common shares at $17 per share, above its projected price range of between $14 and $16 per share, and valuing the jeans-maker at about $6.61 billion. Levi Strauss will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on March 21 under the ticker symbol LEVI and expects to generate approximately $623.3 million in the offering, where it will sell 9,460,557 shares, while existing shareholders will offer 27,206,110 shares.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* Nine West Holdings Inc. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under the majority equity ownership of CVC Credit Partners and Brigade Capital. The apparel retailer, which amended its bankruptcy plan in October 2018 to reduce its pre-bankruptcy debt by more than $1 billion, changed its name to Premier Brands Group Holdings LLC and will have over $100 million of liquidity to continue its operations. CEO Ralph Schipani said the company has also "completed a significant operational restructuring following the sale of our Nine West and Bandolino footwear and handbag businesses."

* French private equity and venture capital firm Eurazeo SE sold its remaining 4.8% stake in Moncler SpA to institutional investors for about €445 million. Eurazeo's exit from Moncler comes after the completion of the two company's eight-year collaboration to transform the luxury firm into an international brand. Eurazeo, which acquired a 45% stake in Moncler in 2011, said the Italian company has grown from having 60 outlets to 193 stores, plus 55 wholesale monobrand shop-in-shops.

* Shares of Guess? Inc. dropped more than 14% in premarket trading after the company reported fiscal 2019 earnings that fell short of analysts' expectations. For the year ended Feb. 2, the apparel retailer posted adjusted EPS of 98 cents, up from 70 cents in the previous year but missing the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.03. Revenue increased by 10.4% year over year, or 10.6% in constant currency, to $2.61 billion. For fiscal 2020, Guess? expects GAAP EPS to come in at $1.09 to $1.21, while net revenue is expected to rise 4% to 5% from the previous year.

* Ted Baker PLC said it will issue an annual dividend of 58.6 pence per share, down 2.5% from 60.1 pence in 2018, after reporting a 10.6% decline in adjusted EPS for fiscal 2019. For the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, the U.K. retailer posted adjusted EPS of £1.14, versus £1.28 in the previous year and slightly above the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of £1.13. Revenue rose 4.4% year over year, or 5% in constant currency, to £617.4 million from £591.7 million, with acting CEO Lindsay Page noting that the company saw growth across all its "distribution channels despite difficult trading conditions" globally. Executive Chairman David Bernstein added that the investigation into misconduct allegations against former CEO Ray Kelvin is expected to conclude in the second quarter of 2019.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Swiss department store operator Maus Frères SA, which owns brands Lacoste and Gant, is in talks to acquire fashion retailer The Kooples, Women's Wear Daily reported, citing chairman Didier Maus. Maus reportedly said purchasing the French apparel brand will strengthen the company's position "as a major player in the premium brand market." A deal is expected to happen before the first half of the year ends, the report added.

* Next PLC CEO Simon Wolfson said the provisional tariff rates that the U.K. plans to issue may reduce the company's tariff payments by about £12 million to £15 million, allowing the retailer to "pass on cost price improvements to customers." Next raised its total ordinary dividend by 4.4% to £1.65 for fiscal 2019 from £1.58 in the previous year after posting full-year earnings that beat analysts' expectations. For the 12-month period ended January 2019, the apparel retailer reported that EPS rose 4.5% to £4.35 from £4.17 in 2018, above the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus GAAP EPS estimate of £4.34.

* Sports Direct International PLC said it requested a general meeting of Debenhams PLC for the appointment of its founder Mike Ashley to the department store operator's board as well as the removal of all members of Debenhams's board, except Rachel Osborne. The move comes after Debenhams said it is considering Sports Direct's offer of an unsecured loan of up to £150 million in exchange for a 5% stake in the company and the appointment of Ashley. Sports Direct, which admitted that it will seek to buy the struggling chain if it enters administration, wants Debenhams shareholders to vote on the board appointments "as soon as possible."

E-COMMERCE

* Amazon.com Inc. unveiled its new Belei skincare brand, a 12-item line of personal care products such as moisturizers, serums, masks and creams, priced between $9 and $40. The Belei line follows a quiet launch earlier this month of Fast Beauty Co., an exclusive skincare and beauty products range on Amazon's platform.

* Amazon is doubling down on its policy of suspending advertisements for loss-making products on its platform unless the item's cost is lowered, CNBC reported, citing conversations with vendors and company emails. The move, which aims to boost the e-commerce giant's profitability, reportedly will not affect third-party merchants but rather the ads run by vendors. "Like all retailers, Amazon decides which products to market and promote in our stores based on a variety of factors, such as relevancy, availability, profitability and other factors," a spokesperson reportedly said.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* U.S. household products maker The Clorox Co. filed a lawsuit against Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC accusing its British rival of "wide-ranging false and deceptive advertising" that misled consumers into buying the U.K. company's Lysol products. "Not only do [Reckitt Benckiser's] ads falsely claim that Lysol products are superior, they disparage the well-established effectiveness and value of Clorox products." said Eric Reynolds, executive vice president of Clorox's cleaning and Burt's Bees business. In its false advertising and unfair competition lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Clorox claims that Reckitt Benckiser's advertisements "unfavorably" compare its Lysol brand products with those of the American company's. Reckitt Benckiser did not immediately return S&P Global Market Intelligence's emails or calls requesting for comment.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Walmart Inc. Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Jeremy King is leaving the company, according to an internal memo seen by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The memo was sent to Walmart staff by Walmart U.S. President and CEO Gregory Foran and Walmart U.S. e-commerce President and CEO Marc Lore on March 20. According to the memo, Fiona Tan, senior vice president of customer technology at Walmart Labs, will assume an elevated role as liaison for technology and Walmart U.S. and U.S. e-commerce leadership as the company looks for King's replacement.

* Shareholders of Distribuidora Internacional de Alimentación SA, or DIA, voted in favor of a €500 million capital increase from L1 Retail, owned by Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman's investment company LetterOne Holdings SA, over the Spanish grocer's €600 million recapitalization plan. The private equity firm's capital injection is subject to conditions, including the appointment of a majority of directors proposed by the U.K. firm and a refinancing debt agreement between DIA and its creditors. Another condition by L1 Retail, which owns 29% of DIA, is buying shares it does not already own in the supermarket operator for 67 euro cents per share. "We are pleased that our fellow shareholders have voted in favor of L1 Retail's resolution and recommendations," said Stephan DuCharme, L1 Retail's managing partner, adding that the result paves the way for its takeover of DIA.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng declined 0.85% to 29,071.56.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.62% to 7,335.92, and the Euronext 100 rose 0.03% to 1,044.26.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook survey, the leading indicators report, the quarterly services survey, 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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