* Nestlé SA said it plans to distribute CHF20 billion, or $20.1 billion, in cash to shareholders as it reported total sales of CHF68.37 billion for the first nine months of 2019, up 2.9% from CHF66.42 billion a year ago on the back of its strong performance in the U.S. and of its Purina PetCare brand. The Swiss food giant also reaffirmed its full-year guidance for 2019. Nestlé said the distribution will be mostly through a share buyback program that will start in January 2020 and through one or more special dividends over the period 2020 to 2022, depending on market conditions.
* Philip Morris International Inc. reported third-quarter adjusted diluted EPS of $1.43, down from $1.44 in the year-ago period but above the S&P Global Market Intelligence mean consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.36. The tobacco giant cut its full-year 2019 diluted EPS guidance to at least $4.73, versus its previous forecast of at least $4.94.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority said it has launched its investigation into Amazon.com Inc.'s minority investment in Roofoods Ltd., which operates as Deliveroo. The CMA, which previously ordered Amazon and Deliveroo to halt any attempt of integration until it decided whether to investigate the deal, expects to announce a decision on the first phase of its investigation Dec. 11.
* French grocer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA said it completed the sale of 31 hypermarkets and supermarket properties to funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management Inc. in transactions worth a combined €465 million.
* Russian food retailer X5 Retail Group NV reported that total net retail sales for the third quarter rose 12.8% year over year to 420.71 billion Russian rubles from 372.93 billion rubles, with a 3.9% growth in like-for-like sales.
* U.S. grocer The Kroger Co. unveiled plans to standardize date labels for its Our Brands food line by 2020, in a bid to lessen labeling confusion and household food waste.
* Pernod Ricard SA affirmed its guidance for fiscal 2020 after reporting first-quarter revenue that grew 1.3% year over year. The maker of Absolut vodka and Havana Club rum said organic net sales for the three months to Sept. 30 was €2.48 billion, up from €2.39 billion in the year-ago period but short of the S&P Global Market Intelligence mean consensus estimate of €2.51 billion, with five analysts reporting.
* Bangkok-based food and drinks distributor Thai Beverage PCL disclosed that its direct subsidiary Oishi Group PCL has established a new e-commerce subsidiary in Thailand. Thai Beverage owns 79.66% of Oishi, which operates Japanese restaurants and food and beverage businesses in Thailand and overseas.
* U.S. commodities trader Cargill Inc. is set to invest about $225 million at its facility in Sidney, Ohio, to expand its soybean crush capacity and modernize its operations.
TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS
* Cannabis maker Cronos Group Inc. said its joint venture company Cronos Australia Ltd. will offer 40,000,000 new shares in an IPO on the Australian Securities Exchange in November. The venture will offer the shares at a price of 50 Australian cents apiece. Cronos Australia expects an initial market capitalization of approximately A$64.4 million.
* Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced an investigation into 22 companies doing business in the state concerning the marketing and selling of e-cigarette products. Moody's investigation focuses on bigger industry players such as market leader Juul Labs Inc., NJOY Inc. and Imperial Brands PLC's Blu e-cigarette brand, along with smaller operators.
* The Unilever Group reported lower-than-expected underlying sales growth for the third quarter of 2019, reflecting softening growth in China and India, nearly flat growth in North America and a small decline in Europe. Underlying sales growth in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 fell to 2.9% from 3.8%, missing expectations for 3% growth, based on a consensus of analysts' estimates provided by Unilever.
* Fresh shell eggs producer Cal-Maine Foods Inc. said it agreed to buy all the assets of Texas-based Mahard Egg Farm related to the latter's commercial shell egg business for an undisclosed sum. Cal-Maine Foods expects to close the transaction in the next few weeks.
* Nestlé plans to integrate its bottled water division Nestlé Waters into its three geographical zones, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The food and beverage company also announced the appointment of Sanjay Bahadur, head of acquisitions and business development, to the executive board as deputy executive vice president, replacing Maurizio Patarnello, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
* Domino's Pizza Group PLC is exiting four international markets after completing a review with external consultants, with outgoing CEO David Wild saying the company is "not the best" owner of these businesses. In a trading update, the U.K. chain posted group system sales of £313.5 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 29, up from £303.3 million a year ago. Domino's also said it appointed Elias Diaz Sese as an independent nonexecutive director, effective Oct. 17.
* Casual dining chain Outback Steakhouse, owned by Bloomin' Brands Inc., is testing machine learning technology from software platform Presto to analyze customer experience, CNBC reported. Under the pilot, cameras will be placed at several restaurants operated by one of its franchisees, Evergreen Restaurant Group.
* U.S. retail sales unexpectedly declined for the first time in seven months in September, with seasonally and calendar-adjusted retail and food services sales slipping 0.3% to $525.56 billion in September from $526.89 billion in August, advance data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed. The consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday was for the sales to rise 0.3%.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng jumped 0.69% to 26,848.49, while the Nikkei 225 dropped 0.09% to 22,451.86.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.58% to 7,209.21, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.60% to 1,098.22.
On the macro front
The housing starts report, the jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey, the industrial production report, the EIA natural gas report, the EIA petroleum status 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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