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Yum! Brands to acquire Habit Restaurants; Diageo invests in Ritual Zero Proof

TOP NEWS

* YUM! Brands Inc. plans to buy Habit Restaurants Inc., which operates and franchises restaurants under The Habit Burger Grill brand name, for $375 million. Habit Burger Grill has nearly 300 corporate-owned and franchised locations across the U.S. and China. The deal is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions.

* British alcoholic-drinks maker Diageo PLC, through its venture capital arm Distill Ventures LLP, invested in Chicago-based spirit alternative Ritual Zero Proof as it looks to capitalize on the growing preference for nonalcoholic drinks among customers. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Following the investment, Ritual Zero Proof's founders and current investors will retain majority ownership and control of the company, with Diageo holding a minority stake.

FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION

* Canadian food retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is recalling select pork loin roast sold at a number of stores over undeclared presence of mustard.

* British fuel station and convenience store operator EG Group Ltd. is looking to make an offer to buy Caltex Australia Ltd., challenging Canadian retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s A$8.66 billion takeover proposal, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. An EG Group representative declined to comment, while a spokesman for Caltex Australia said the company does not comment on speculation, Bloomberg said.

* Food software company Olo is eyeing an IPO in the U.S. this year, under which it could seek a valuation of about $1 billion, Bloomberg News reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Olo provides restaurants with digital solutions to manage online orders and deliveries, as well as to set up food-ordering platforms. Olo did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.

* U.K. grocer Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC reported that group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, decreased 1.7% in the 22 weeks to Jan. 5, mainly driven by a 1.7% loss in sales from its retail unit, while its wholesale unit saw flat growth. Morrisons added that trading conditions continued to be challenging and that customer uncertainty was sustained.

* South Korean hypermarket chain E-Mart Inc., owned by Shinsegae Inc., is set to close its Pierrot Shopping discount store chain in a bid to focus on its big-box retail business, the Nikkei Asia Review reported.

BEVERAGES

* Molson Coors Brewing Co. said it will stop production at its Irwindale, Calif., brewery by September and entered an agreement with local rival Pabst Brewing Co. LLC, giving the latter an option to buy the facility. The Irwindale facility employs 470 people and produces brands such as Miller Lite, Coors Light and Miller High Life.

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

* Grain trader Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. sold its palm business in Brazil to local player Reflorestadora Moju Acará, as a part of its broader global portfolio review, Reuters reported, citing local antitrust watchdog Cade. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

PACKAGED FOODS

* Impossible Foods Inc. unveiled its first plant-based pork products, called Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage, Bloomberg News reported. Its plant-based sausage patty reportedly will be piloted in 139 Burger King restaurants, owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc., in five regions in late January. Impossible did not disclose where and when it would sell its ground pork product.

RESTAURANTS

* Food-service provider Aramark said it appointed Thomas Ondrof as its executive vice president and CFO, effective Jan. 7. Ondrof, previously the CFO of Performance Food Group Co., will succeed Steve Bramlage.

* Pizza-making robots startup Zume Inc. will lay off about 400 employees across several offices in the U.S. on Jan. 13, as a part of its plan to cut costs, Business Insider reported, citing sources. Zume reportedly has struggled to receive additional funding from SoftBank's Vision Fund. SoftBank did not respond to a request for comment, Business Insider added.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* China does not plan on raising its import quotas for wheat, rice and corn to contribute to its commitment of increasing imports of agricultural goods from the U.S., Reuters said, citing a Caixin report that quoted Chinese Vice Agriculture Minister Han Jun.

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The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng gained 0.34% to 28,322.06. Nikkei 225 was up 1.60% to 23,575.72.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.11% to 7,583.60, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.12% to 1,157.28.

On the macro front

The International Trade report, Redbook index for retail sales, Factory Orders report and ISM nonmanufacturing index 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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