IRAN: The first online supermarket in Iran has been launched by a technology company with links to the state. will initially cover Tehran, selling 2,500 grocery and household lines. It will operate every day apart from Friday, the Islamic holy day, and will aim to cater to consumers who want to avoid the city's congested roads.

The venture has been launched by the Rooyesh Technical Centre, which has connections with the country's Islamic regime. Iran has strict controls on the internet and has a special police force to monitor online behaviour.

FRANCE: Carrefour is struggling to offload its three Russian hypermarkets four months after deciding to pull out of the country. The French retailer opened its first Russian store in July, but after failing to identify any growth prospects decided to withdraw in October. According to reports it is likely to sell leasing rights to its Moscow hypermarket to rivals including Auchan or German DIY chain OBI while it continues to seek a buyer.

AUSTRALIA: Super­markets have agreed to end a practice that prevents rivals from opening in the same retail development. Aldi, Franklins, Spar, Australian United Retailers and Metcash have agreed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that they will not enter into any new leasing agreements that restrict rivals from opening.

"These agreements mean that many more shopping centres will no longer be hamstrung by restrictive provisions in leases," said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel. The pact between the ACCC and the five groups follows similar agreements with Coles and Woolworths last year.

l ITALY: Loyalty programme Nectar is to launch in Italy, with Auchan Hypermarkets, Simply Sma and Api Ip among the retailers to have joined the scheme. Nectar Italia is a joint venture with Oney Banque Accord, a leading financial institution with more than 6.2 million clients in Europe. Groupe Aeroplan will have a majority 75% ownership in the program, with Oney Banque Accord owning the remaining 25%.

"Having so many well-known names signed up to the scheme is testament to the effectiveness of Nectar's coalition model in the UK, which we are replicating in Italy," said Gerard Whelan, managing director of Nectar Italia.

USA: Ahold has completed the acquisition of 25 US stores from family-owned Ukrop's Super Markets for $140m. The Dutch retailer operates 800 supermarkets in the US, where it generates 60% of its total sales. "This acquisition is part of Ahold's profitable growth strategy," chief executive John Rishton said when the deal was announced. "Ukrop's is a great company with a strong heritage."

The 25 Virginia stores, located in Greater Richmond and Williamsburg, will begin operating under the Martin's name later this spring.