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JD.com CEO cleared in sexual assault case; Kaufland to drop Unilever products

TOP NEWS

* Prosecutors in Minneapolis' Hennepin County will not bring sexual assault charges against JD.com Inc. CEO and Chairman Liu Qiangdong. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said that after a thorough investigation, it was determined that there were "profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt." In a statement posted on its website, JD.com said it is "pleased to see this decision." Liu was arrested in Minnesota on Aug. 31 on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct. The police department subsequently released Liu, who returned to China.

* German food retailer Kaufland Stiftung & Co. KG said its stores will stop carrying Unilever products in response to the consumer goods company's price increases. Kaufland, which operates 660 sites in Germany and also has locations in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, said in an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence that it had been negotiating with Unilever since May but its solutions were rejected. A spokesperson for Unilever, whose listed entities are Unilever PLC and Unilever NV, said it would not comment as its customer relationships are confidential.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Gainhold, an investment firm led by Eliasz Englander, sued U.K. department store Debenhams PLC, seeking £132,600 in unpaid rent for its Southend-on-Sea, Essex branch that was sublet to Mothercare plc, The Sunday Times reported. Debenhams argues the money is owed by Mothercare. The struggling retailer's stock fell 5% to 3.8 pence Dec. 21, a roughly 90% decline in a year in which it issued three profit warnings, The Guardian reported.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Energizer Holdings Inc.'s $1.25 billion acquisition of Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc.'s auto care business has obtained all the antitrust clearance necessary for its completion. The deal is expected to close by February 2019, subject to customary closing conditions.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* The administrators of U.K. fishing tackle retailer Fishing Republic plc secured a deal to sell the struggling company, saving the jobs of 111 workers across 14 stores, Retail Gazette reported. The sale of the company to an independent third party was completed one day after administrators were appointed.

* Newell Brands Inc. completed the previously announced divestiture of its Pure Fishing Inc. and Jostens Inc. units to two private equity firms. The company sold Pure Fishing to Sycamore Partners Management LP and finalized the divestiture of Jostens to Platinum Equity LLC. Proceeds from the two transactions total about $2.6 billion.

* Rent-A-Center Inc. announced the appointment of Maureen Short to be CFO. Short had been serving as interim CFO.

HOTELS, RESORTS AND CRUISE LINES

* Wynn Resorts Ltd. announced that Alvin Shoemaker will retire as a director of the company, effective Dec. 31. Following the resignation, Wynn's board has been reduced to nine members.

CASINOS AND GAMING

* The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Canadian casino and betting operator The Stars Group Inc. and reversed the $870 million judgment issued against its poker site by a trial court judge in December 2015, the company said Dec. 21. In a 34-page verdict, the court explained the decision, saying Kentucky's Commonwealth could not be recognized as "an individual," which makes the legal demands invalid. Also, the state could not find actual people who had lost money.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Around 30,000 U.K. retailers are in significant financial distress during the current holiday season due to low turnout of customers, The Guardian reported, citing a report from insolvency firm Begbies Traynor. Approximately 8,500 online retailers saw a decline in sales in the Christmas period. According to the report, if the trend continues over the end of the festive period, the retail industry could be in a worse position than at the start of 2018, when the number of fashion retailers and online shops in distress increased by 17% and 46%, respectively.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng decreased 0.40% to 25,651.38, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 1.11% to 20,166.19.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 decreased 0.60% to 6,680.60, and the Euronext 100 decreased 1.08% to 899.85.

On the macrofront

The Chicago Fed national activity index is due out today.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 8 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.

Editor's note: The Daily Dose will not be published Dec. 25 and will return Dec. 26.