business news in context, analysis with attitude

• Lund Food Holdings and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises will team up to open a new “Shanghai Circus – Stir Fry and Steam Show” at the Lunds store in Wayzata, Minnesota, on Dec. 14. This will be the seventh Shanghai Circus eat-in or take-home food concept to open in Lunds or Byerly’s store, both of which are owned by Lunds.

• Biometrics provider Pay By Touch confirmed that it will acquire a competing company, BioPay, for $82 million in cash and stock.

The deal is expected to close within a few weeks.

• Coca-Cola Co. announced yesterday that it will launch a new soda – Coca-Cola Blak – next year. The new product is made up of Coca-Cola Classic infused with coffee extracts, and will have half the sugar, calories and carbohydrates of regular colas.

Coke said the new product will first be offered in France next month, and then will be rolled out in US and elsewhere during the remained of the year. The company also said that it will adjust the formulation of the soda depending on local tastes.

Meanwhile, Coke chairman Neville Isdell told an investment conference that the company was making “good progress” in coming out of recent marketing doldrums, and that it would debut a new ad slogan next year: “Welcome to the Coke side of life.”

• Sears Holding Corp. announced yesterday that it will begin allowing its Kmart stores to sell DieHard batteries, as well as an expanded selection of Kenmore appliances. Both DieHard and Kenmore are brand names associated with Sears, which was acquired by Kmart last March.

Company chairman Edward Lampert told shareholders in a letter that putting Sears products inside Kmart stores offers “the possibility of achieving increased customer satisfaction and increased profit without the customer education needed to convert to a Sears Essentials format.”

• Jasper, Indiana-based Buehler Foods is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection by next spring, according to published reports. The company and its creditors are continuing to work on a debt restructuring plan that will allow Buehler's to reorganize more than $67 million in debt.

• The Michigan State Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to allow for the direct shipment of wine both in-state and from out-of-state. Governor Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign the bill into law.

Michigan was one of two states (New York being the other) that went to the US Supreme Court to try and prevent direct shipments from out of state, but the court ruled that it was, in essence, restraint of trade – if in-state direct shipments were allowed, then out-of-state shipments had to be permitted as well. The vote allowing direct shipping actually is a 180-degree turn for the legislature, which had been considering a total ban on such shipments, but came under pressure from Michigan’s wine industry.

KC's View: