BRITISH CHAINS BANKING ON FINANCIAL SERVICES

LONDON (FNS) -- Britain's food retailers are continuing their rush into the financial services arena and in the process are succeeding in extending their brand names' equity.The latest additions in the financial services area are Tesco PLC and Safeway PLC, both of which are following the lead of J. Sainsbury PLC in offering a range of financial services in partnership with British banks.Tesco has

LONDON (FNS) -- Britain's food retailers are continuing their rush into the financial services arena and in the process are succeeding in extending their brand names' equity.

The latest additions in the financial services area are Tesco PLC and Safeway PLC, both of which are following the lead of J. Sainsbury PLC in offering a range of financial services in partnership with British banks.

Tesco has joined with the Royal Bank of Scotland to establish a joint venture in financial services, with plans to invest up to $81 million in establishing the operation.

The joint venture also will include responsibility for administering Tesco's debit and customer loyalty-card program, Clubcard Plus, and will lead to issuance of a credit card this summer that will allow customers to earn points for their Clubcard account.

Tesco now has 9 million members signed up for its customer loyalty-card program.

Safeway, for its part, has joined with Abbey National PLC to introduce a direct-debit account that offers 5% interest on balances of up to $972.

The program, called ABC Bonus Account, is open to all 5.6 million members of Safeway's customer-loyalty scheme and is seen as the first step in the development of a range of financial services, according to officials at both the retailer and the bank.