Business stories of interest this week

Business stories from the past week, compiled by Jason Maywald:

1. Aussie Farmers Direct goes under

Food and grocery delivery service Aussie Farmers Direct has shut down, saying it cannot compete in a market dominated by the major supermarkets.

Aussie Farmers, which began 13 years ago delivering milk to peoples’ homes before expanding to a full grocery range, will close immediately after going into voluntary administration on Monday.

Restructuring firm KordaMentha says about 100 franchisees and 260 employees will be hit by the closure.

Administrator Craig Shepard says there is little cash in the company, which has struggled to compete with the supermarket giants in a tough retail environment exacerbated by low wage growth.


2. Bentley enter hybrid territory

On Monday, at a private party before the Geneva Motor Show, Bentley Motors unveiled the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid. This is the first vehicle in Bentley’s family of cars to run on hybrid power.

True to form, the Crewe, England-based company gave its new plug-in SUV a nod toward prestige: The 2019 Bentley Bentayga hybrid comes with a plug-in power dock made from sustainable materials and designed by French designer and frequent Bentley customer Philippe Starck.

It uses two power sources, a 3.0-litre V6 combustion engine and an electric motor.

It accompanies the V8 version of the $US230,000 ($296,000) SUV that Bentley announced this year, which the company will also show in Geneva.


3. The Iconic’s threat launching soon

At the moment, The Iconic monopolises Australia’s online fast fashion market.

But that could be about to change, following news international fashion juggernaut Zara is about to launch an online shopping option for Australian fans.

No official announcement has been made, but the popular brand’s Australian website has been updated to display the message: “Dear Australia, shop online March 14”.

Until this month, Aussie Zara fans who have been unwilling or unable to visit stores in-person have simply been redirected to the company’s US or European e-stores when trying to purchase items online.

Zara’s first store was opened in Sydney in 2011.

The Spanish fashion and accessories retailer was founded in 1975 and today it has 2266 stores around the globe, raking in $US9 billion in revenue each year.


4. Retail Food Group shares fall 50pc to lowest since December 2008

Retail Food Group shares shed half their value when the stock resumed trading on Monday after reporting December-half losses of $88 million and unveiling plans to close at least 10 per cent of its Australian stores.

Shares in Retail Food Group, which owns Michel’s Patisseries, Donut King, Gloria Jeans and Brumbies Bakeries, plunged as much as 49.5 per cent to $1.03 – the lowest level since December 2008 – before recovering some ground to close down 36.5 per cent at $1.295.

This compares with $2.04 before the food and coffee franchisor went into a trading halt last Wednesday while it waited to secure auditor sign-off on its December-half accounts.


5. Microsoft restores bitcoin payments

Microsoft has resumed accepting bitcoin as payment after temporarily halting transactions in the “unstable” cryptocurrency earlier this week.

Since 2014, the software giant has allowed users to add money to their Microsoft account using bitcoin, but has temporarily stopped supporting bitcoin twice in the past, once in 2015 and once in 2016.

The move this week, first reported by Bleeping Computer, was due to the “unstable state of the bitcoin currency”. In a statement to on Wednesday, a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the suspension but said the service had now been restored.

“We’ve restored bitcoin as a payment option in our store after working with our provider to ensure lower bitcoin amounts would be redeemable by customers,” she said.