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EU regulator orders Luxembourg to recover €250M from Amazon; Tesco profit surges

TOP NEWS

* The European Commission on Oct. 4 ordered Luxembourg to recover about €250 million from Amazon.com Inc. after the competition regulator concluded the country's rules allowed the U.S. online retailer to avoid paying taxes on three-quarters of its profits earned in the EU between May 2006 and June 2014.

* U.K. supermarket operator Tesco Plc on Oct. 4 reported a sharp rise in pretax profit for the first half of fiscal 2018 as it continued to reap the benefits of a turnaround plan. The company reported that pretax profit for the six-month period ended Aug. 26 jumped to £562 million from £71 million in the same period a year earlier as its profit margin swelled, while diluted EPS climbed to 5.21 pence from 0.42 pence. Tesco said it would pay a dividend, its first in three years.

E-COMMERCE

* Amazon has leased the entire 722,000 square feet of office space in Seattle's Rainier Square building, scheduled to open in 2020, Bloomberg reported, citing building developer Wright Runstad & Co. Financial terms were not disclosed. The 58-story, $570 million skyscraper is set to be the city's second-tallest.

* Amazon's India unit is set to double the price of its subscription service, Prime, to 999 Indian rupees per year after the service gained popularity in the country, India's Economic Times reported. Amazon India launched Prime in July 2016 at the introductory price of 499 rupees.

* Amazon's next big deal may involve a grocery chain or food distributor in France as it has contacted several French companies, including Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA and Systeme U Centrale Nationale SA, Reuters reported, citing French newspaper Le Monde. A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment.

FOOD RETAILING

* A Japanese loyalty program called Ponta is set to expand in Southeast Asia, enabling customers in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia to accrue and spend points in these countries, beginning spring of 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Ponta rewards points can be used at partner business establishments, including Lawson Inc. convenience stores, the Nikkei added.

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* U.S. office supplies retailer Office Depot Inc. announced that it agreed to acquire IT company CompuCom Systems Inc. for about $1 billion, calling the deal the first step in its transition from a traditional office supply retailer into a platform for business services and technology products. The transaction is expected to close before the end of 2017.

* Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. may accelerate overseas takeovers by moving some work related to mergers and acquisitions from its Japanese headquarters to its Dutch unit, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Oct. 3, citing CFO Hirokazu Umeda. The company would likely make the subsidiary responsible for identifying and evaluating targets for acquisitions and partnerships, according to the report.

* Vacancy rates in U.S. shopping centers increased year over year in 34 out of 77 metropolitan areas in the third quarter of 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing data from real estate research firm Reis Inc. However, vacancy rates in the third quarter reportedly decreased from the second quarter, where year-over-year increases were recorded in 39 metro areas.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Total retail sales by value in Hong Kong increased 2.7% year over year to HK$34.8 billion in August, a slowdown from the 4.0% growth confirmed for July, according to the city's Census and Statistics Department. Supermarket sales grew 2.3% in value, and department store sales jumped 5.2%.

* U.S. retail sales are expected to reach between $678.75 billion and $682 billion in November and December despite impacts from the recent hurricane season, the National Retail Federation predicted. The projection, excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, marks an expected increase of between 3.6% and 4% over the $655.8 billion in retail sales in the same period in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

* Retail sales in the euro area in August fell 0.5% by volume from July, largely due to a 0.9% drop in automotive fuel. However, retail sales in August were up 1.2% from the same month in 2016, boosted by a 2.3% increase in nonfood products.

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