Sainsbury’s is exploring a takeover bid for Palmer & Harvey the UK’s biggest tobacco distributor, according to Sky News.

Sainsbury’s is exploring a takeover bid for Palmer & Harvey the UK’s biggest tobacco distributor, and a key component of the supply chain of the supermarket chain’s arch-rival, Tesco. The supermarket is said to be in the early stages of examining a bid for P&H, which was put up for sale several weeks ago. If Sainsbury’s does move to buy P&H, it would be interpreted as a defensive move following Tesco’s agreed £3.7bn takeover of Booker, the wholesale giant. (Sky News)

A source close to the situation confirmed that discussions between Sainsbury’s and P&H were taking place, although no formal approach has been made (The Telegraph). But one top boutique investment adviser said that he did not think it likely that Sainsbury’s would make an offer and said: “I can’t see that. Palmer & Harvey’s primary business is tobacco, which is in decline and the margin is low.” (The Times £)

Three former Tesco executives are set to appear in court in relation to its £326m accounting scandal. Carl Rogberg, 49, Chris Bush, 50, and John Scouler, 48, have been charged with fraud by abuse of position and false accounting. (The Daily Mail)

Marks and Spencer has yet to reveal which shops will be closed and the lights turned off as part of an overhaul of its store network. But for scores of town centres, where the retail chain has maintained a presence for decades, its first moves point to a gloomy future. (The Financial Times £)

The global luxury market is expected to grow by a solid 2% to 4% this year in a clear sign that the turnround in performance for the sector that began last year is on a steady and sustainable footing. (The Financial Times £)

Pret A Manger’s debt swelled to £608m last year after a refinancing, as the chain gears up for a stock market listing in New York. Pret’s net debt rose from £577.4m in 2015, the sandwich and coffee chain said in its latest annual report, filed at Companies House this weekend. Pret, which has 440 stores, said £395m of the sum was external bank debt. (The Times £)

A record number of English wine companies were launched last year, as new vineyard owners sought to capitalise on a growing taste for their products. Sixty-four new wine businesses put down roots in England and Wales during 2016, up 73% on the previous year, according to HM Revenue and Customs (The Guardian). There are now just over than 500 vineyards in England spreading across almost 5,000 acres of land as English wines are taken more seriously and the weaker pound makes exports cheaper, boosting demand. (The Daily Mail)

A team of City investors has agreed a secret deal to buy 45% of Welcome Break, one of Britain’s biggest motorway service station chains. Arjun Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm set up by former JP Morgan executives, is picking up the stake from a clutch of minority investors, including Dutch Bank ING and Australian insurer Challenger Life. NIBC European Infrastructure Fund is set to retain its 55% stake. (The Times £)

The American hedge funds in talks to take full control of the Co-op Bank are racing to secure backing for a deal by the middle of next month (Sky News). The ailing Co-op Bank wants to strike a deal within a fortnight to shore up its balance sheet amid fears that depositors will face huge losses if it is wound up. (The Daily Mail)

It’s hard to think of a better poster child for “conscious capitalism” than Whole Foods Market, writes The Guardian. These days, the chain is floundering and a potential buyout is on the horizon. What does that say about the conscious capitalism it championed? (The Guardian)

The Waitrose effect on house prices has been known for a while, but it seems that Lidl is also getting in on the act. A house near the middle class supermarket chain of choice can command a premium of more than £35,000. However, the cheaper supermarkets are catching up fast and properties near a Lidl command a premium of £6,416, even though three years ago the proximity of the cut-price German grocery chain meant a discount of £4,719. (The Times £)

Supermarkets are fleshing out their vegan credentials as clean eating grows. Stores are racing to stock more lines of non-dairy, meat-free food as clean-eating trend boosts numbers of UK flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans. (The Guardian)

Amazon became a retailing wrecking ball when it began undercutting bricks-and-mortar booksellers on price in the mid-1990s. But it turns out that wasn’t the end of the story for the traditional bookshop, or of Amazon’s part in it. Last week, the ecommerce giant opened its first physical store in New York, and there are more to come. (The Times £)

The FT’s Lex column writes: “Quake, shopkeepers of the world. Amazon will continue gorging on your business”. Even as it conquers new worlds of computing and hardware, Jeff Bezos’s company still has ambitions in retail: one day the pharmacy business; the next, stores with no checkouts. Confronted with this juggernaut shareholders in other retail stocks have taken fright this year. (The Financial Times £)

Costco bucked the weakness that hit many bricks-and-mortar retailers at the start of this year, with stronger-than-expected profits and sales, boosting its stock price. (The Financial Times £)