Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

By Paul Page Features Dow Jones Newswires

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is blurring the lines still more between online sales and brick-and-mortar business. The Chinese e-commerce giant is paying $2.88 billion for a 36% stake in China's second-largest big-box retailer, Sun Art Retail Group Ltd., the WSJ's Liza Lin reports, adding to a push by online marketplaces toward physical store operations. Alibaba's wager follows online retailer Amazon.com Inc.'s acquisition of grocer Whole Foods. Hong Kong-listed Sun Art gets Alibaba into more than 450 large supermarket-department stores in China under the RT Mart and Auchan brands, extending the company's reach into fresh foods while opening new routes for its logistics services and Alipay mobile-payment business. Alibaba has been investing to raise its profile in physical retail, including operations of the small Hema supermarket chain in China that place it closer to everyday consumer purchases. One banker involved in the transaction expects more such tie-ups as online retailers look for more ways to leverage physical space and online capabilities.

Energy producers are running out of places to send all the natural gas that's gushing out of West Texas. Pipelines running from the region's Permian Basin to Gulf Coast chemical plants, cities and export terminals are essentially full, the WSJ's Ryan Dezember and Alison Sider report, leaving a growing gas glut that is already weighing on regional prices. The oversupply is part of the fast changing energy business in the U.S., where readily available natural gas has slashed prices at electricity plants while making it tougher for oil and gas operators to match production to pricing. There's a growing concern producers may cap wells and curtail oil drilling until new pipelines to the Gulf Coast are built and planned power plants come online in Mexico. The country is likely to import more gas as it replaces aging facilities that burn oil and coal. But much of the gas distribution infrastructure and power plants to buy the fuel haven't been built yet.

India's automotive supply chain is starting to reach into the U.S. Mumbai-based manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. plans to build rugged off-road vehicles at a small factory north of Detroit, the WSJ's John D. Stoll reports, a potential step toward a bigger goal of selling cars in the U.S. The move marks the latest action by non-U.S. auto makers and suppliers to scale up their presence in the country, with commitments from companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and Chinese windshield maker Fuyao Glass Industry Group helping redraw production and parts distribution maps. They're responding to a years-long boom in auto sales, potentially providing Mahindra a healthy market as it considers building a more global profile in the car business. Mahindra will be building rugged utility vehicles aimed at the specialized market for work equipment, but the Auburn Hills, Mich., site will give the company a stake in a recovering U.S. factory sector and a new base to consider the future of its auto making.

ENERGY SUPPLIES

Big oil and giant auto makers are trying to rev up the internal combustion engine for a comeback. The foundation of transportation is facing threats around the world, with new restrictions on emissions arising in Europe and Asia while new technology like Tesla's Semi electric truck garner big attention with efforts to upend even the industrial truck market. The WSJ's Sarah Kent and Chester Dawson report that companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are working on high-tech versions of engine oil. They believe the new, thinner oils will help them squeeze more efficiency out of traditional engines, and remain relevant as new technologies gain traction. Car companies are ramping up moves toward electric vehicles, and Tesla's new truck will likely accelerate engine makers' research on heavy duty trucks. But electric vehicles still make up a small fraction of sales. Most companies expect the combustion engine to remain dominant for decades, and the efficiency improvements are critical to keeping their energy supply chains moving.

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QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. rose 1.2% in October. (WSJ)

Retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. are using new pricing strategies to boost sales ahead of Black Friday. (WSJ)

Volvo Cars has agreed to supply Uber Technologies Inc. with a fleet of 24,000 self-driving taxis beginning in 2019. (WSJ)

Fear among corporations of strategic advances by Amazon.com Inc. and other tech giants is feeding explosive growth in mergers and acquisitions. (WSJ)

Nebraska officials removed the last major regulatory hurdle in the way of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. (WSJ)

Canadian regulators are investigating Glencore PLC's copper operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo for suspected bribery and corruption . (WSJ)

A Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship that recently made a port call in Japan may have breached a ban on third-country ships that had visited North Korea. (Kyodo News)

U.K.-based maritime insurance group North P&I Club will create a subsidiary in Dublin to write European pacts after Brexit. (Lloyd's List)

Nordstrom Inc. is setting aside areas in some of stores to hold goods bought by online customers. (Crain's Chicago Business)

Retailer Bon-Ton Stores Inc. is closing at least 40 of its 260 stores in the next year. (Retail Dive)

Global fertilizer distributor Yara International ASA of Norway will buy a Vale SA production complex in Brazil. (Reuters)

Orders for dry bulk ships quadrupled in the first 10 months of 2017 over the year before. (Splash 24/7)

Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. is investing in Dubai-based farm-product trader ETC Group. (Nikkei Asian Review)

Jordan's government will work with U.S. developers to build an airport and logistics center to help with reconstruction in Syria and Iraq. (Al Arabiya)

Container shipping line Zim says it used blockchain technology to handle a paperless bill-of-lading transaction. (Port Technology)

Maersk Line is extending a trade finance program for its customers to the customers' suppliers. (Journal of Commerce)

Russian carmakers UAZ and GAZ will start exporting vehicles to Latin America next year. (Automotive Logistics)

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a big opportunity for U.S. food-delivery companies with big risks for operators that falter in t he stress-filled period. (Boston Globe)

ABOUT US

Paul Page is deputy editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @PaulPage, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @brianjbaskin , @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2017 06:41 ET (11:41 GMT)