business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  Kroger announced the other day that its board of directors has "authorized a new $1 billion share repurchase program, replacing the current authorization, which had approximately $157 million remaining as of December 29, 2021 … Under the repurchase program, Kroger is authorized to repurchase its outstanding common shares from time to time in open market or privately-negotiated transactions, including accelerated share repurchase transactions, block trades, or pursuant to trading plans intended to comply with SEC Rule 10b5-1. The share repurchase program has no expiration date but may be suspended or terminated by the Board of Directors at any time."

"We are customer obsessed and focused on leading with fresh and accelerating with digital, which is building momentum in our business and will drive Kroger's long-term success," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman-CEO. "Kroger's share repurchase authorization reflects our Board of Directors' confidence in the strength of our free cash flow and our ability to deliver consistently strong and attractive total shareholder returns."



•  The Washington Post reports that the White House this morning "announced it will devote $1 billion to aiding independent meat and poultry producers, aiming to undercut the four powerful meat producers the Biden administration has alleged are responsible for surging consumer prices.

"Facing immense political pressure over inflation, the White House has responded in recent weeks by criticizing large corporations and arguing that breaking up monopolies will foster competition and drive down prices. In November, President Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether oil and gas companies were improperly pushing up energy prices … The stakes are particularly high in the beef industry, where prices in November rose by a staggering 21 percent relative to last year, according to federal data. Food prices have also increased more broadly — by a significant 6.4 percent — with the index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs jumping 13 percent."



•  The BBC reports on new laws in France that went into effect on January 1, banning "plastic packaging on most fruit and vegetables … Cucumbers, lemons and oranges are among the 30 varieties banned from being wrapped in plastic."

According to the story, "President Emmanuel Macron called the ban 'a real revolution' and said it showed the country's commitment to phase out single use plastics by 2040."

The BBC writes that "more than a third of fruit and vegetable products in France are thought to be sold in plastic wrapping, and government officials believe that the ban could prevent a billion items of single use plastics being used every year."

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports on a "$600-million project, the first new paperboard production line built in the U.S. in decades, (that) represents an enormous bet by owner Graphic Packaging Holding Co. on a future without foam cups, plastic clamshell containers or six-pack rings.

"Graphic wants to be able to offer more environmentally friendly packaging so that the consumer-goods companies that buy its products can tout a cleaner supply chain to their own investors and consumers. Once Graphic shuts down four smaller and less-efficient machines, including one at its Kalamazoo complex that is 100 years old, it will use a lot less water and electricity, it says, and emit 20% less greenhouse gases."



•  Bloomberg reports that "private equity firm Bain Capital recently approached Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. about a potential purchase of its U.K. drugstore chain Boots … Bain is positioning itself as a front-runner for an upcoming auction of the unit … Boots only owns about a quarter of its stores and may be worth 6 billion pounds ($8.1 billion) to 7 billion pounds."

Bain has not commented on the report.