* Takeaway.com NV and Naspers Ltd.'s Prosus NV increased their bids for U.K. online food-delivery company Just Eat PLC and said their offers are final and will no longer be increased. Dutch food delivery company Takeaway.com raised its offer to 916 pence per share from 731 pence per share, with a 57.5% ownership of the combined entity for Just Eat shareholders. Prosus increased its cash bid for Just Eat for the second time to 800 pence per share, or about £5.5 billion. Separately, Just Eat said its board unanimously rejects Prosus' final bid and recommends its shareholders accept Takeaway.com's revised offer.
* Nestlé SA agreed to sell a 60% stake of Herta SAS to Casa Tarradellas SA, a Spanish family-run sausage and pizza company, to form a 40/60 joint venture. The joint venture, which will be incorporated in Spain, will include Herta's charcuterie available in six European countries, as well as the Herta dough business in France and Belgium. Nestlé said it will retain and develop Herta's vegetarian business. The deal values Herta at €690 million and is expected to close in the first half of 2020.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Indian conglomerate Tata Group is in talks with Walmart Inc. to acquire up to 49% stake in its wholesale cash-and-carry business in the country, The Economic Times (India) reported, citing multiple sources familiar with the development. A Walmart India spokesperson reportedly declined to comment on the matter, while a Tata Group spokesperson did not respond to a request seeking comment.
* A court in India's capital New Delhi denied Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's appeal to reverse a citywide sales ban on its products, Reuters reported. New Delhi authorities have imposed a three-year ban on selling AB InBev products in the city's key markets due to the company's alleged tax evasion, which the brewer has denied. AB InBev did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.
TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS
* Canada's health ministry is proposing a ban on advertising of vaping products in spaces where young people can see them, including in public spaces and online. Patty Hajdu, the country's minister of health, also announced new mandatory health warnings on vaping packages, which should be child-resistant and contain nicotine content limits.
* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Dec. 17, 2,506 vaping-related lung injury cases were reported from all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There were 54 deaths confirmed in 27 states and Washington, D.C.
* British tobacco company Imperial Brands PLC named Thérèse Esperdy a nonexecutive chairman, replacing Mark Williamson in the role. Sue Clark will succeed Esperdy as senior independent director. Both appointments are effective Jan. 1, 2020.
* Conagra Brands Inc. said adjusted diluted EPS for its second fiscal quarter rose 8.3% year over year to 63 cents, beating the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of 57 cents. The maker of Slim Jim meat snacks cut its fiscal 2020 adjusted diluted EPS outlook to a range of $2.07 to $2.17, compared with its prior guidance of $2.08 to $2.18, to reflect the sale of its snacks business.
* Chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. posted a diluted loss of $1.05 per share for the fourth quarter, versus a loss of $1.95 per share a year ago. The figure beat the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus GAAP loss per diluted share of $1.22.
* U.S. meat processor Lamb Weston Holdings Inc. said it increased its quarterly dividend to 23 cents per share, up 15% from 20 cents per share in the last quarter, payable Feb. 28, 2020. The company also plans to continue to target an annual dividend payout ratio of 25% to 35% of adjusted diluted EPS.
* The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint challenging Post Holdings Inc.'s proposed acquisition of TreeHouse Foods Inc.'s private-label cereal unit. The FTC said the deal would likely lead to higher prices and reduced quality of store-brand cereals. The companies said they are disappointed by the FTC's decision and will be unable to provide a deal closing timeframe.
* Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants Inc. said its adjusted EPS for the second quarter ended Nov. 24 came in at $1.12, up year over year from 92 cents, and above the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.07. The company also reaffirmed its fiscal 2020 earnings outlook. Darden's board also declared a quarterly cash dividend of 88 cents per share, payable Feb. 3, 2020, to shareholders of record on Jan. 10, 2020.
* Hard Rock Cafe International Inc. said it partnered with Coca-Cola to introduce the soft-drink company's portfolio to Hard Rock Café locations globally, beginning in 2020.
* The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. for allegedly firing an employee in New York, who complained about workplace problems and tried to organize with a union, Reuters reported. Representatives for Chipotle did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.
* Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said it is piloting a new restaurant design in four locations — Chicago, Cincinnati and two locations in Phoenix — before rolling it out across the U.S. The test involves various types of designs, including an urban storefront, as well as a standalone restaurant and an endcap unit with mobile pickup lanes.
* Retail sales volume in the U.K. logged a second consecutive monthly decline in November, as sales in all the broader sectors dropped in the month, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. Sales fell 0.6% month over month in November, while sales at food stores and the non-store retailing segment slid 0.2% each.
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The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.25% to 27,871.35, and the Nikkei 225 slid 0.20% to 23,816.63.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 inched up 0.19% to 7,588.55, and the Euronext 100 gained 0.61%% to 1,149.96.
On the macro front
The GDP report, the corporate profits report, the personal income and outlays report, the consumer sentiment report, the Kansas City Fed manufacturing index and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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