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Report: Toys R Us UK loses buyer; AB Foods profit to grow despite Primark blip

TOP NEWS

* Toys R Us' U.K. arm informed Britain's Pension Protection Fund that the company lost a potential buyer in time to pay its tax bill due Feb. 27, unnamed sources told the Financial Times. The unit could go into administration with Moorfields Corporate Recovery already in line to take over the retailer's operations as early as Feb. 27 if it fails to secure a buyer, the report said, citing a person briefed on the plans. The Pension Protection Fund is set to become one of its retailer's biggest creditors in the U.K.

* Associated British Foods PLC said it expected to deliver progress in adjusted earnings per share for its fiscal first half despite a blip in the performance of its fashion retail chain, Primark. Ahead of its fiscal first half ending March 3, AB Foods said it anticipated Primark sales to show a 1% year-over-year decline on a like-for-like basis due to unseasonably warm weather in October 2017 that stifled demand for cold-weather clothing. However, it appeared to rebound quickly, with like-for-like sales in the 16 weeks to March 3 expected to show 1% year-over-year growth.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* British retail entrepreneur Philip Green, chairman of Topshop and Dorothy Perkins owner Arcadia Group, discussed a prospective sale of Arcadia to Chinese buyers as early as February 2016, an email obtained by The Sunday Times showed. According to a report by The Guardian, Green sought the help of HSBC Holdings PLC's U.K. CEO Ian Stuart and managing director David Barraclough in meeting "any Chinese prospective partner we consider appropriate," contradicting his denial of a sale to textile maker Shandong Ruyi. A spokesperson for Green reportedly did not wish to comment on the matter, while Shandong Ruyi refuted any rumors of a potential transaction.

* Warburg Pincus LLC-backed Kalyan Jewellers plans to file draft documents "sometime next month" with the markets regulator in the run-up to its IPO, India's Mint reported, citing three people aware of the matter. The Indian jewelry maker reportedly expects to garner 25 billion rupees through a mix of primary fundraising and equity stake sale by its New York-based private equity investor, financing its domestic and global expansions.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Nordstrom Inc.'s founding family group met with investment banks the week of Feb. 16 in hopes of finalizing plans for a privatization offer as early as March, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. To make the offer, the department store chain reportedly will need funding from the banks, which have to get approval from their credit committees. Nordstrom did not immediately return S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment.

E-COMMERCE

* Digital commerce company QVC Group began its search for a new CFO following the departure of Ted Jastrzebski, effective May 17. QVC said Mark Carleton remains the CFO of its parent company Liberty Interactive Corp.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* Food retailer Woolworths Group Ltd. may challenge the ruling of Australia's competition regulator rejecting BP PLC's proposed purchase of the company's 527 fuel convenience sites and 16 committed development sites for $1.8 billion, The Australian reported. CEO Brad Banducci reportedly said Woolworths is "regrouping and assessing" its options after it was disappointed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to dismiss the deal on concerns it would lead to increased fuel prices.

* The Kraft Heinz Co. said Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will retire from the food giant's board when his term ends at the upcoming 2018 annual meeting. The company's board plans to nominate Alexandre Van Damme, a board member of beverage company Anheuser-Busch Inbev SA/NV and Canada-based Restaurant Brands International Inc., to stand for election to fill Buffett's seat at the annual meeting.

* Altia Oyj plans to fund the expansion of its handcrafted vodka brand Koskenkorva in the U.S. through an IPO as it gears up to compete with Diageo PLC's Smirnoff and Pernod Ricard SA's Absolut, CEO Pekka Tennila told Bloomberg. The Finnish government-owned alcoholic drinks maker reportedly plans to debut on the Helsinki stock exchange as early as March.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Australian supermarket chain Coles, owned by Wesfarmers Ltd., agreed to raise its hourly minimum wage to A$20.55 for entry-level staff from the previous A$20.08 and pay a one-time settlement of A$475 to each employee, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Coles reportedly also will provide yearly pay raises to its employees as part of the new policy.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Japanese consumer electronics producer Sharp Corp. will form a joint venture with its Taiwanese parent Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. that produces automotive cameras and electronic mirrors, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Hon Hai, which will own 51% of the venture, reportedly will use its distribution networks in China, Taiwan, North America and other parts of the world to sell the products. Sharp, which will have a 49% stake, and a unit of Hon Hai, better known as Foxconn, will invest about ¥3 billion in the collaboration, the Nikkei reported.

* TV makers, including LG Corp., Sony Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., plan to hike prices in India of next-generation display technology OLED and LED units up to 7% to mitigate the 15% duty increase of panel imports, The Economic Times reported. The country's Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association, which is in talks with the Indian government to reverse the tax increase, reportedly said the price hike will affect demand "in the short term."

* South Africa's public accountancy regulator will probe retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV's auditor Deloitte South Africa after financial irregularities erupted at the company, Reuters reported, citing a statement by the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors. The statutory body said it identified "some lines of further investigation" following its initial probe of audit documents provided by Steinhoff.