9.25.17: Your morning briefing

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Food for thought: Possibly in response to AmazonFresh — or possibly in response to UberEats — Marks & Spencer is testing a few options for digital ordering and delivery. In trials in London and Woodley, the high-street store is offering online ordering with one-hour and two-hour slots depending on the nature of the order, or in-store pickup, according to The Independent. The faster service offers ready-made meals, while the longer delivery window allows shoppers to add groceries. The article notes there are possible hurdles to Marks & Spencer competing with other digital food ordering services, such as its limited offerings compared to rivals such as Tesco.

Athens blockchain academy: Artificial intelligence and blockchain are combining to drive myriad financial services advancements from cross-border payments to security, though that popularity may be contributing to a talent shortage. Research company IOHK is attempting to address that shortage through a crash course in Haskell, a programming language that is becoming more popular as blockchain mainstreams because it's considered secure. IOHK ran the first course this summer in Athens, making it free to students who were selected by university professors because of their high aptitude in programming. IOHK will give the graduates an initial placement in its new Athens Haskell Team. "Corporations and financial institutions are increasingly seeking Haskell developers but are faced with a shortage of skilled programmers," said IOHK chief scientist Aggelos Kiayaias in a release. Most of the students were in their fifth year at the National Technical University of Athens School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the University of Athens.

Cold water: Distributed ledger technology is of limited use, according to Deutsche Bundesbank, which lauds some limited cases but is more uncertain about the technology's most sought after tasks. Finextra reports the German central bank has issued a German language statement saying distributed ledger has a good chance to eliminate reconciliation processes, improve transparency and provide protection from internet attacks. But it falls short in three major areas: payments, securities settlement, and central bank backed currencies. The central bank's researchers say there is "little prospect" that distributed ledgers can be useful in retail payments. There's also little use in Europe where there is an existing infrastructure that backs faster payments with low reconciliation, according to the German central bank. The economic impact of government-based virtual currencies is also difficult to determine, making distributed ledger technology an unrealistic bet, according to Deutsche Bundesbank.

U.K. OKs Cardtronics' ATM deal: The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority has approved Cardtronics' acquisition of DirectCash Payments' U.K. operations. The nod allows Cardtronics to begin combining the two ATM networks. The U.K. was the only country to review Cardtronics' DCPayments purchase. The regulatory green light from the CMA is no small thing. The regulator this year has taken a hard stand on ATM consolidation, placing pressure on both Diebold and Mastercard's separate ATM acquisitions, contending the deals would adversely impact ATM competition in the U.K.

From the Web

Payment firm Nets receives $5.3 billion takeover bid from Hellman & Friedman
Reuters | Mon Sep 25, 2017 - Payments firm Nets said it has received a takeover offer worth 33.1 billion Danish crowns ($5.3 billion) from U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, in what could rank as one of the take-private deals in Europe in recent years. The offer comes after Nets said in early July that it had been approached by potential buyers. The fragmented payments industry is seeing a wave of mergers and acquisitions as consumers increasingly switch to card and mobile payments and as regulatory changes promise to open the market to more competition. Worldpay and Paysafe were recent buyout targets. Hellman & Friedman’s offer of 165 crowns per share represents a 27 percent premium to Nets’s share price as of June 30. Nets shares rose 6.4 percent higher in early trade. Nets said shareholders representing 46 percent of its share capital had agreed to accept the offer.

2017 Data Breaches Up 23% Year over Year
Yahoo! Finance | Sun Sep 24, 2017 - The latest count from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports that there have been 1,022 data breaches recorded this year through September 21 and that more than 163 million records have been exposed since the beginning of the year. The incident total is 22.8% higher than at the same time last year. In 2016, the ITRC reported a record total of 1,093 breaches and at the current pace that record could rise to around 1,500 in 2017. According to an online survey conducted by security products maker ESET, Americans rank criminal hacking as the number one threat to their well-being, just ahead of pollution, hazardous waste disposal, and identity theft. ESET senior security researcher Stephen Cobb told Darkreading.com: It's pure speculation on my part as to why criminal hacking was rated the highest, but one suggestion is criminals breaking into computers is a more immediate threat. Maybe the headlines in the news also made a difference. The survey was done right after WannaCry and NotPetya. The Equifax breach of 143 million personally identifiable records certainly did nothing to ease anyone's mind on this score.

84% Chinese can go out without cash
China Daily | Mon Sep 25, 2017 - About 84 percent of the Chinese people can accept going out without any cash, according to a report of mobile payment usage in China released by Chinese mobile payment solution Wechat Pay. The report 2017 Mobile Payment Usage in China was released Friday during the 3rd Asia-Pacific Regional Forums on Smart Cities and e-Government which was held in the north suburb of Bangkok. Based on statistics collected from 6,596 users around 324 Chinese cities, the report said 40 percent of Chinese go out with less than 100 Chinese yuan ($15.2) of cash, even 14 percent of Chinese have already began their cashless life. Asked whether they can go out of their home without cash, 84 percent said they are "calm" with it while only 4 percent cannot and 12 percent feels concerned. The report, conducted by Tencent, that developed the famous Chinese social media Wechat and Wechat Pay, said China is a good example in terms of mobile payment development.

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