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Walmart plans 47 new stores in India by 2022

Walmart Stores Inc. will invest about $500 million to open another 47 wholesale stores in India by 2022, according to the head of the retailer's Indian unit.

That will bring to 70 the number of Cash and Carry stores in that country, said Krish Iyer, president and chief executive officer of Walmart India. The new stores will include dedicated space for e-commerce, he said.

Iyer said a typical Cash and Carry requires an investment of $9 million to $10 million. Walmart India opened its 23rd store in late October.

The investment comes in addition to the Bentonville retailer's purchase earlier this year of a majority stake in Flipkart Group, India's largest online marketplace. While the wholesale stores sell solely to businesses, the Flipkart deal gives Walmart direct access to consumers.

Walmart's $16 billion investment in Flipkart caused the retailer to lower by 25 cents its expected adjusted earnings per share for the fiscal year. The impact of the deal that closed Aug. 18 will be reflected in the retailer's third-quarter earnings to be released next week.

-- Serenah McKay

Amazon offers free holiday shipping in U.S.

SEATTLE -- Amazon says it will offer customers free shipping on orders delivered through Christmas regardless of whether they are members of the Prime membership program, a move that comes two weeks after rival Target undercut the company with its own free-shipping offer.

Target last month said it would offer free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items, with no minimum order size, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22 -- a move designed to keep customers looking to shop online from defecting to rivals like Amazon or Walmart, which both charge for expedited shipping.

Walmart offers free two-day shipping on sales of more than $35, while Amazon's free delivery-window guarantees are limited to members of its $119-a-year Prime program.

On Monday, Amazon returned fire, saying it will eat the shipping costs on "hundreds of millions" of items on its online bazaar during the holiday rush. A spokesman said it is the first time Amazon has dropped its minimum order size to qualify for free standard shipping -- which generally takes between five and eight days -- to zero.

A day after Target's announcement, a public-relations firm hired by Amazon had sent journalists an email detailing the company's own delivery perks, a rundown that primarily listed features of the paid Prime program. Also mentioned was the previous free-delivery threshold on orders larger than $25.

Amazon's shipping costs have grown rapidly in recent quarters. During the fourth quarter of 2017, the company spent a record $7.3 billion getting packages to customers.

-- The Seattle Times

U.S. farmer optimism rises to pre-tariff levels

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- American farmers just became the most optimistic they've been since before trade tensions with China escalated, with sentiment rising in October.

That's according to a monthly agricultural economy barometer released Tuesday by Purdue University and CME Group. The measure jumped to 136 points in October from 114 a month earlier, according to the report. Most notable was the rebound in future expectations to 146, about on par with the level in June. China in July placed tariffs on a host of U.S. farm goods including soybeans.

Some of the newfound optimism comes from "producers' relatively optimistic perspectives" on prices for soybeans, a focal point in U.S.-China tensions. The growers also felt more positively about corn and wheat in the year ahead.

More than 60 percent of respondents also said the U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico announced in early October, which still needs legislative approval, "at least somewhat relieved their farm-income concerns," according to the report.

The monthly economic sentiment index is based on a survey of 400 producers.

-- Bloomberg News

N.Y. firms make all-cash offer for Bojangles'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bojangles' is being acquired.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based chicken-and-biscuits-chain said in a statement Tuesday that it has agreed to be bought in an all-cash deal by two New York firms, Durational Capital Management LP and The Jordan Company LP.

Shareholders will receive $16.10 per share, which represents a 39 percent premium to the closing share price on Feb. 12, a day before speculation arose that Bojangles' could be selling itself.

The deal, which is subject to shareholder approval, is expected to close in the first quarter of fiscal2019. Bojangles' said in the statement that when the deal closes, it will continue to be operated as an independent, privately-held company and will remain based in Charlotte.

Bojangles', which started in Charlotte in 1977, has been beset with a number of challenges since going public in 2015. In recent months, experts have said Bojangles' could be a takeover target.

This summer, Bojangles' reported that its quarterly profit plummeted over 71 percent. Executives took a number of steps to help improve the chain's financial health, including closing underperforming restaurants, eliminating unpopular menu items and re-examining the company's expansion plans.

-- The Charlotte Observer

SoftBank to develop $1.2B Saudi solar plant

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group Corp. is planning to develop a $1.2 billion solar power plant in Saudi Arabia, even as it faces growing scrutiny over its relationship with the kingdom, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The plant, to the north of Riyadh, would generate 1.8 gigawatts of power a year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the plans are private. SoftBank has started preliminary talks with banks and developers to gauge interest in the facility, they said.

Plans for the facility are at an early stage and SoftBank may decide to change the size of the plant or not proceed with it, the people said. The plant would be a pilot project for Saudi Arabia's wider plans to build more solar power facilities, they said.

SoftBank has faced criticism over its relationship with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of government critic Jamal Khashoggi. Last month, the kingdom admitted Khashoggi had been killed in its consulate in Istanbul, prompting international outrage. The country's Public Investment Fund is the largest investor in SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund as Masayoshi Son forged personal ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 11/07/2018

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