* U.S. pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. reaffirmed its full-year outlook after reporting first-quarter earnings for fiscal 2019 that beat estimates. For the quarter ended Nov. 30, the company said adjusted EPS came in at $1.46, up 14.1% year over year and beating the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.44. Net earnings attributable to the company increased 36.8% to $1.1 billion from $821 million in the year-ago period. The company maintained its guidance of 7% to 12% growth in fiscal 2019 adjusted EPS at constant currency rates.
* U.S. children's apparel retailer The Gymboree Corp. is seeking a bankruptcy loan as it prepares for a second Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in less than two years, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation. The company emerged from bankruptcy in September 2017, three months after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to the Journal, the retailer would likely close a majority of its 900 stores after it files for bankruptcy protection in early January.
* Chinese online entertainment platform Bilibili Inc. signed a business collaboration agreement with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Taobao e-commerce platform to connect content creators, merchandise and users on both platforms, according to Alibaba. Both companies also will work on promoting Bilibili's intellectual property assets.
HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
* Unilever, whose listed entities are Unilever PLC and Unilever NV, said it will acquire The Vegetarian Butcher BV as part of its plans to expand its plant-based portfolio. The Vegetarian Butcher offers meat substitute products including burgers, hot dogs and ready meals. Financial terms were not disclosed, and the deal is expected to be completed by 2018-end.
* U.K. health and beauty retailer Boots U.K. Ltd., owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., appointed Tracey Clements, who is currently Tesco PLC convenience managing director, as COO for its U.K. and Ireland business, Retail Week reported.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* U.S. drug retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said it has teamed up with Alphabet Inc.-owned life sciences research organization Verily Life Sciences LLC to collaborate on new projects aimed at improving health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. Under the deal, Walgreens will become Verily's first-choice retail pharmacy development and commercialization partner. The companies will explore ways to improve access to advanced healthcare technologies and solutions.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* British grocers fear a major blow from J Sainsbury PLC and Asda Stores Ltd. potential merger, concerned that it might be more of a risk to trade than a no-deal Brexit, The Times reported, citing a survey conducted by the Food and Drink Federation. The survey, conducted among over 100 suppliers, found that 55% were negative about the deal while 39% were very negative. Only 2% recorded a positive reaction and 5% did not know what impact it would have on their businesses. The findings are part of the federation's submission to the Competition and Markets Authority, which is investigating whether the merger should go ahead.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Swedish home-furnishing retailer Ikea Group is expanding into New Zealand with the opening of both physical and online stores. The company did not disclose when they would open its stores, but Ikea said it will share more information about the New Zealand operations in early 2019.
* Danish consumer electronics company Bang & Olufsen A/S saw its stock plunge about 31% after it revised its financial outlook for fiscal 2018-2019. B&O now expects its full-year revenue to be at the same level as fiscal 2017-2018 from its previous growth forecast of more than 10%. The company cut its outlook after reporting that its preliminary second quarter of fiscal 2018-2019 revenue is expected to decrease 9% year over year.
* Texas-based home furnishings company Pier 1 Imports Inc. appointed Cheryl Bachelder as interim CEO, effective immediately. Bachelder succeeds Alasdair James, who stepped down from the company. The retailer also unveiled a number of initiatives, including a cost-reduction program expected to result in annualized savings starting in fiscal 2020.
* European lawmakers agreed to advance proposed rules restricting single-use plastics across the European Union, putting the region on track to join the largest jurisdictions enacting limits on plastic in an effort to curb pollution. The rules, if passed next year by Europe's legislative bodies, would apply to hotels, restaurants and any other business that offers customers single-use plastics, according to a statement from the Council of the European Union.
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Record-setting holiday shopping season could spark strong start to 2019
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, Hang Seng fell 0.94% to 25,623.53, while the Nikkei 225 was down 2.84% to 20,392.58.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.26% to 6,748.23, and the Euronext 100 was down 1.14% to 917.00.
On the macro front
The jobless claims report, the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook survey, the leading indicators report, the Energy Information Administration natural gas 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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