Tesco unveils virtual supermarket at Gatwick Airport

UK-based supermarket chain Tesco plc (LSE:TSCO) has opened a “virtual grocery store” in a two-week trial at London’s Gatwick Airport.

The company said today that the new store would allow holidaymakers to arrange an online grocery shop that can be delivered when they return.

From now until 19 August, the trial store in the airport’s North Terminal allows customers to view a range of everyday products by scrolling through screens on large virtual fridges. They can add products to an online basket by scanning the barcodes with their smartphones and then book a home delivery slot and checkout.

Surveys show that more than half of the UK population owns a smartphone.

Around 80 of the most popular products are available in the virtual supermarket, including milk, eggs, bread, cheese, pasta, sauce, cereal and fruit and vegetables.

Customers need to download the Tesco app to scan the barcodes. The software works with iPhones and devices powered by Android.

According to Tesco, 30,000 people depart from Gatwick’s North Terminal every day and each has an average of 70 minutes of time to spare while waiting for flights. With the opening of the virtual Tesco store, they can now use this time to stock up on essentials and ensure they don’t have to visit the shops on their way home.

This is the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store and its opening follows Tesco’s launch of a virtual store in South Korea last year, allowing commuters to order groceries in subways and at bus stops by pointing their mobile phones at billboards.

Standard Chartered shares plummet after money laundering allegations

Banking group Standard Chartered plc (LSE:STAN) has seen its share price fall around 24% today after US regulators accused the institution of hiding 60,000 secret transactions for financial institutions in Iran.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) claims that the London-listed bank designed and implemented an “elaborate scheme” to use its New York branch as a front for prohibited dealings with Iran, a country that is subject to US economic sanctions, thereby hiding Iranian financial deals.

Specifically, the regulator claims that Standard Chartered laundered as much as USD250bn over almost ten years by stripping out payment data showing that the clients were Iranian, replacing it with false entries. Standard Chartered has been ordered to appear before the regulator to explain its “apparent violations of law” from 2001 to 2010.

Standard Chartered has strenuously denied the allegations, announcing that it “strongly rejects the position or the portrayal of facts as set out in the order issued by the DFS”. Further, Standard Chartered said that it “does not believe the order issued by the DFS presents a full and accurate picture of the facts”.

According to the bank, more than 99.9% of its transactions relating to Iran complied with the so-called U-turn regulations and the total value of transactions which did not follow the U-turn was under USD14m.

U-turn transactions involve money moved for Iranian clients among non-Iranian foreign banks and cleared through the US financial system. The U-turn framework was established by the US authorities to enable ongoing US dollar trade with Iran by other countries.

Standard Chartered said in a statement that it ceased all new business with Iranian customers in any currency over five years ago and is currently engaged in discussions with the relevant US agencies.

“We intend to discuss these matters with the DFS and to contest their position,” the bank stated.

Swedish defence group Saab tables offer for air-traffic firm Hitt NV

Sweden-based aerospace and defence major Saab AB (STO:SAAB B) has made a EUR6.60 (USD8.18) per share public cash offer for Dutch sea and air-traffic control solutions firm Hitt NV (AMS:HITT), both companies said in a statement.

Hitt’s management and supervisory boards consider that the bid is fair and have recommended it to shareholders, who are going to cast their votes at an extraordinary general meeting on 21 September.

Saab, which announced its plans to buy the Dutch firm in June, commented that the offer fits in with the group’s strategy to be a leading global player in the traffic management market. According to it, the acquisition provides it with a strong growth base to enhance its capabilities to develop, sell, deliver and maintain leading products globally. It plans to fund the transaction with existing resources.

In addition, Hitt Holding BV, which owns 53.4% of the target’s stock, and other large shareholders together holding 20.2% have pledged to tender their shares. The acceptance period runs from 7 August till 2 October 2012 and is subject to extensions.

Hitt develops technology aimed at safety enhancement and traffic flow improvement, while also enabling significant cost reductions in infrastructure and logistics. Its core activities comprise developing, selling and maintenance of management and control systems and services for air and vessel traffic and hydro-graphic and navigation systems. In 2011 Hitt generated a revenue of EUR40.7m and a net profit of EUR3.4m with 188 employees.

AXA Private Equity invests in German fashion retailer Schustermann & Borenstein

AXA Private Equity, the private equity arm of French insurer AXA SA (EPA:CS), said it was taking a stake in German retail fashion firm Schustermann & Borenstein GmbH (S&B) from the Schustermann and Borenstein families.

The private equity firm did not disclose the value of the deal nor size of the S&B stake it would buy, but said that the family owners would keep a substantial financial interest in the company and would continue to run its business operations.

Wolfgang Pietzsch, managing director at AXA Private Equity expressed his satisfaction with the deal, saying that his company would back S&B as long-term investor and strategic partner, supporting management to carry out its strategy.

Meanwhile, Daniel Schustermann and Daniel Borenstein, the managing partner and managing director of S&B respectively, welcomed AXA Private Equity as partner, saying they were confident that the new investor would help the fashion trader implement its growth plans, they added.

S&B has two membership-based fashion stores in Munich and owns the exclusive online shopping community BestSecret.com.

The target firm also exports clothing to eastern European and other non-European Union countries.

According to informed sources cited by Reuters, the transaction values S&B at EUR300m (USD372m).

Axa Private Equity manages or advises USD28bn worth of investments in Europe, North America and Asia.

Turner Broadcasting acquires sports content firm Bleacher Report

Turner Broadcasting System Inc (NYSE:TWX), part of of US media and entertainment group Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX), said it had purchased online sports media content provider Bleacher Report (B/R), in a move to further boost its sports offering.

David Levy, Turner Broadcasting’s president of sales, distribution and sports, sees the acquisition as strategic, pointing out in a comment that Bleacher Report’s fast growth to a top marketplace position and a valued consumer destination was attractive to a brand builder and content provider such as Turner Broadcasting.

Turner will use its vast digital rights and resources to ensure that Bleacher Report would continue its growth, Levy went on saying, adding that the acquisition allows Turner to provide integrated opportunities to advertisers on all screens and demos, ensuring increased ability to monetise sports programming all through the year.

Bleacher Report was launched in 2008 in San Francisco. Its mobile offerings will become part of Turner Sports division. The acquired site provides sports editorial content and has more than 10m unique visitors monthly.

Turner Broadcasting used the advisory services of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, while Bleacher Report was advised by RBC Capital Markets and Latham & Watkins LLP in this deal.

The financial terms of the transaction were not made public.