* California-based food delivery platform DoorDash Inc. said it raised $600 million from its series G funding round, pushing its valuation up to $12.6 billion. SoftBank Vision Fund LP, Sequoia Capital, Darsana Capital Partners LP and Sands Capital Management participated in the round alongside Coatue Management LLC, Dragoneer Investment Group LLC, Temasek and DST Global. In the same release, DoorDash said its business grew 60% since the close of its series F funding round in February, which raised $400 million and brought its valuation to $7.1 billion.
* Taco Bell Corp. said it plans to grow its presence in Australia, Thailand and India and enter New Zealand, Indonesia and Portugal within the year. The YUM! Brands Inc.-owned restaurant chain plans to expand in Sydney and Melbourne, with restaurants to open in the cities within the next 12 months. It plans to open 600 more restaurants in India within the next 10 years. Taco Bell signed a new franchising deal with local partner Burman Hospitality Private Limited to reach the target. Taco Bell also said it plans to expand into New Zealand in partnership with Burger King and Tim Hortons parent Restaurant Brands International Inc. and Australian franchise partner Collins Foods Ltd. In the same release, Taco Bell mentioned plans to enter Indonesia and Portugal but did not provide further details.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Rallye SA, the parent company of French supermarket operator Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA, entered bankruptcy protection in order to improve its debt profile in a stable environment. Casino said in a statement the same day that these procedures do not relate to the Casino group or its operations and employees. It also said this does not affect the ongoing execution of its strategic plan. The move came after shares of Rallye and Casino were suspended earlier in the day, sparking speculations of a restructuring, according to a Financial Times report.
* Meituan Dianping reported wider adjusted net losses for the first quarter of 2019, marking the company's third consecutive quarterly loss since going public in 2018. For the three months to March 31, the company posted an adjusted net loss of 1.04 billion yuan. That loss is narrower than the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus estimate for an adjusted net loss of 2.06 billion yuan, with four analysts reporting. Revenues jumped 70.1% year over year to 19.17 billion yuan from 11.28 billion yuan a year ago. Its food delivery segment's revenue grew 51.7% to 10.71 billion yuan.
* BJ's Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. maintained its fiscal 2019 EPS outlook of $1.42 to $1.50. It also anticipates full-year net income to come in between $200 million and $212 million, with sales outlook of $12.9 billion to $13.2 billion. The warehouse retailer reported adjusted EPS of 26 cents for fiscal first quarter ended May 4. It was higher than the previous-year quarter's adjusted EPS of 20 cents and beat the S&P Global Market Intelligence normalized consensus mean estimate of 25 cents. Adjusted net income rose 30.5% year over year to $36.68 million from $28.11 million in the year-ago quarter. Also, the company said it appointed Robert Steele as a lead independent director.
* Starbucks Corp. said it granted Coffee Concepts exclusive rights to operate its retail business in Thailand. Starbucks, which entered Thailand in 1998, operates 372 stores in the market. Coffee Concepts, a joint venture formed by Hong Kong-based Maxim's Caterers Ltd. and local F&N Retail Connection Co. Ltd., also won the licensing rights for Starbucks Myanmar in 2018.
* Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S has extended its sponsorship deal with Liverpool Football Club for another five years, until the end of 2023-24 season. The brewer's partnership with the football club began in 1992. Under the partnership, Carlsberg will continue to contribute toward global and local activations, as well as events around the world.
* Nestlé SA will continue focus on its confectionery portfolio despite divesting its U.S. chocolate operations to Ferrero SpA, Reuters reported, citing CEO Mark Schneider. At an event in Switzerland, the executive said water, baby food and animal food will boost the company's growth. Schneider also reportedly said in recent years that Nestlé had to adjust to changing customer preferences. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to launch plant-based burgers in Europe and the U.S.
* Ikea AG will introduce new plant-based meatballs globally by summer 2020 at restaurants inside its stores, subsequent to an in-store testing planned for 2019 fall, Bloomberg News reported, citing its managing director for food services Michael La Cour. La Cour reportedly added that the chain is considering wheat, soy, peas and oats as chief ingredients for the new product, and eight employees are working on the product's development. He cited a "clear shift" in demand for testing the plant-based alternatives to animal protein, the report said.
* Georgia-based baking goods producer Flowers Foods Inc. appointed Bradley Alexander, current president of its fresh packaged bread business unit, to be COO, effective immediately. He replaces Ryals McMullian, who took over as the company's CEO. H. Mark Courtney, the existing senior vice president of retail accounts, was named president of the company's fresh packaged bread business unit. Chief legal counsel Stephen Avera announced his plan to retire by the end of the year. He will be succeeded by Stephanie Tillman, vice president, chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
* Chocolatier Barry Callebaut AG signed a letter of intent with the government of Cameroon to increase cooperation on sustainable cocoa farming and income diversification initiatives. The company also extended support to Cameroon Cocoa and Coffee Interprofessional Council's "new generation" program to set up centers of excellence, provide access to family farm plots and training opportunities to the next-generation cocoa farmers.
TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS
* The Competition Tribunal of South Africa has allowed Gold Leaf Tobacco Corp. and the local arm of Philip Morris International Inc. to participate in the ongoing merger proceedings involving the local unit of British American Tobacco PLC and Twisp (Pty) Ltd. According to a May 22 release, both tobacco companies can now take part in the merger hearing and access case documents, file witness statements, give evidence at the hearing and cross-examine witnesses. The news comes over a week after Gold Leaf Tobacco and Philip Morris South Africa applied to the tribunal for permission to intervene in the proposed deal.
* A California bill to ban sales of flavored tobacco products in stores and vending machines was withdrawn, CNBC reported, citing state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. The representative reportedly said the proposed bill was withdrawn due to "hostile amendments," including exemption of tobacco used in hookahs, or water pipe smoking, and did not cover tobacco products patented before 2000. Following the amendments, three health advocacy groups — American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Action Network and the American Heart Association — also withdrew their support for the bill. The report added that the bill was opposed by tobacco and related products manufacturers, including Juul Labs Inc.
* Fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. global CMO Silvia Lagnado said the company is evaluating plant-based meat alternatives to introduce on its menu without disclosing any concrete plans, CNBC reported. The news comes as McDonald's faces pressure to add a vegetarian-friendly burger to its menu as competitors, including Restaurant Brands Inc., are increasingly offering vegan and vegetarian options to cater to consumer preferences, the report said.
* Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Dias said China will allow meat exports from six Brazilian meat-processing plants amid the outbreak of African swine fever forcing it to look for alternatives, Reuters reported. The minister reportedly said the processing plants have passed an inspection while some formalities remain to be met. The six plants are part of a list of 30 facilities that Brazil wants China to clear for exports, Reuters said. The remaining plants are yet to undergo a thorough evaluation, the report added, citing Dias.
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The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, Hang Seng rose 0.32% to 27,353.93, while the Nikkei 225 was down 0.16% to 21,117.22.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.75% to 7,285.09, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.37% to 1,039.60.
On the macro front
The durable goods orders report and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count 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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