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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am

Nestlé eyes trimming US brands

News services

Nestlé said it may sell Butterfinger, BabyRuth and other U.S. confectionery brands as it explores strategic options for a unit that's struggling amid sluggish demand for chocolate.

The review will be completed by the end of the year, the Vevey, Switzerland, company said Thursday. The unit had sales of about $923 million in 2016, about one-tenth of the company's global revenue from sweets.

“It's a first step away toward health and wellness,” said Alain Oberhuber, an analyst at MainFirst Bank AG. “It became clear that Nestlé is too small in confectionery in the U.S.”

The food industry is under pressure to reduce costs after Kraft Heinz Co.'s unsuccessful bid for Unilever this year showed that even the largest companies in the industry could become targets. Chocolate makers especially are grappling with weak U.S. consumption as Americans increasingly turn their backs on sugar. In March, Hershey Co. announced plans to cut 15 percent of its workforce six months after rebuffing a takeover bid from Mondelez International Inc.

Nike subject to European inquiry

The European Commission is investigating whether Nike, Universal Studios and Japan's Sanrio are preventing traders from selling products across EU borders and online.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last week the inquiry would “examine whether the licensing and distribution practices of these three companies may be denying consumers access to wider choice and better deals.”

Nike, film-maker Universal and Sanrio, owner of Hello Kitty, license rights to some major world brands. They control the use of images or text applied to merchandise to make them more attractive, often to children.

The Commission says it wants to find out whether they breached EU competition rules by restricting traders from selling licensed merchandise cross-border and online.

Sears parent to cut 400 full-time jobs

Sears Holdings says it will cut about 400 full-time jobs as part of the troubled retailer's plan to turn its business around.

The company, which owns the Sears and Kmart chains, says the cuts include some at its corporate offices in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, support functions globally, certain field operations positions and jobs related to store closures. The eliminated jobs represent less than half a percent of the 140,000 full-time and part-time employees it had at the end of January.

Sears Holdings Corp. said last week the job cuts are part of its previously announced plans to save $1.25 billion in costs a year. The retailer, which has been losing money for years, has been closing stores, selling locations and putting some of its famous brands up for sale.