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Walmart Q1 results exceed expectations; Venezuela restarts Kellogg plant

TOP NEWS

* Walmart Inc. reported fiscal first-quarter earnings jumped 14% year over year, beating expectations, aided by a 33% jump in online sales in the U.S. and an 11.7% rise in international sales. The retail giant said adjusted EPS for the 13 weeks to April 27 climbed to $1.14 from $1.00 in the same period a year ago, outpacing a mean consensus of analysts' estimates for normalized EPS of $1.12, according to data compiled by S&P Capital IQ. Revenue rose to $122.7 billion from $117.5 billion, an increase of 4.4%. International sales ticked up to $30.3 billion from $27.1 billion as eight of its 11 markets posted gains.

* The Venezuelan government restarted a Kellogg Co. plant under worker control after the U.S. cereal maker, along with other multinational companies, exited the country May 15, Reuters reported. Marco Torres, state governor of Aragua, reportedly guaranteed that production will continue and criticized Kellogg for exiting the country without notice and leaving its 570 workers hanging. Opposition critics believe the government would loot the Kellogg facility and ruin its business, the report said.

FOOD RETAIL AND DISTRIBUTION

* Kroger Co. will exclusively use Ocado Group PLC's technology for food distribution-related activities in exchange for a 5% stake in the U.K. online grocery retailer. Ocado will help the U.S. grocer redefine its customer experience in the U.S. with an end-to-end solution for online grocery services, ranging from website functionality to automated warehouses specifically designed for grocery e-commerce. Kroger will also pay monthly exclusivity and consultancy fees that will offset in part the total fees expected to be agreed upon between the two companies.

* U.K.-based Co-operative Group Ltd said that it will donate fresh produce to charities and community groups, two hours before the store closing time, to reduce the volume of food going to waste. Co-op plans to roll out the scheme across its 2,500 outlets, following a successful trial at 50 branches, creating about 8 million meals, the report added.

BEVERAGES

* Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. is facing delays in getting clearance for its shipments to China due to additional authentication that "seemingly appear" to apply particularly to Australian wines, Reuters reported. Treasury Wine is engaging with a number of senior Australian government officials to address the additional verification requirements and is also cooperating with Chinese authorities, Reuters added.

PACKAGED FOODS

* U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Bumble Bee Foods LLC CEO Christopher Lischewski is charged by a federal grand jury in California for price-fixing seafood packages sold in the U.S. from November 2010 to December 2013. Lischewski is the fourth person indicted in the federal price-fixing probe, the department added.

* China agreed to import French beef after the Chinese officials inspected seven of the European country's meat plants last week, Reuters reported, citing a French industry official. Before shipping any meat to China, the processing plants need to get certified from Beijing, the report added. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly said during his visit to China in January that French beef will be available in the Chinese market within six months.

* B&G Foods Inc. is set to increase prices of its breakfast staple brand, Cream of Wheat, and snack brand Pirate's Booty for the first time in three years, Reuters reported. B&G CEO Bob Cantwell said at BMO's Farm to Market conference in New York that a price increase of about a dime "across the board" will be implemented by the end of May to cope with burgeoning freight costs, Reuters added.

TOBACCO AND SMOKING PRODUCTS

* Philip Morris International Inc. is looking to lower prices for its reduced-risk smoking apparatus, iQos, and change its marketing strategy to make it more attractive to the older and more rural audience in Japan, Bloomberg reported, citing André Calantzopoulos, CEO of the U.S. tobacco company. The company, which is facing stiff competition, is looking to attract more conservative smokers after it reportedly noticed a deceleration in sales despite Japan being its largest market for the device.

* South Korean cigarette maker KT&G Corp. will roll out Lil Plus, a new heat-not-burn, or HNB, electronic cigarette in South Korea on May 23, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a company statement. The report said the product's release date marks one year since Philip Morris International Inc. launched its HNB electronic tobacco iQOS. Meanwhile, Philip Morris and rival British American Tobacco PLC are also scheduled to launch new products with improved functions soon, Yonhap said, citing sources.

* Indian conglomerate ITC Ltd. posted diluted EPS of 2.39 Indian rupees for the quarter ended March 31, up from 2.19 rupees reported for the year-ago period, as net profit rose 9.9% year over year to 2932.71 crore rupees from 2669.47 crore rupees. Total income for the quarter fell to 11329.74 crore rupees from 15410.92 crore rupees in the same quarter of 2017.

RESTAURANTS

* U.S. acquisition company Landcadia Holdings Inc. will acquire Louisiana-based online food delivery service Waitr Inc. for $308 million in total consideration, and Landcadia will pay at least $50 million in cash to Waitr's equity holders at the close of the deal. Tilman Fertitta will be a director of the merged company, and Waitr's executive team will continue their respective roles in the company, while Waitr CEO Chris Meaux will be chairman of the combined company's board. After the transaction, Landcadia plans to change its name to Waitr Holdings Inc.

* Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. is looking to invest in Indian restaurant search and delivery service Zomato, months after SoftBank explored funding up to $200 million to $250 million in rival Swiggy, The Economic Times (India) reported, citing three people aware of the preliminary discussions. The tech conglomerate is reportedly interested in funding the next top player in the food delivery market.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 0.54% to 30,942.15, and the Nikkei 225 rose 0.53% to 22,838.37.

In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.17% to 7,747.06, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.36% to 1,077.41.

On the macro front

The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed business outlook survey, the E-Commerce retail sales report, the leading indicators report, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.

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