PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway’s Blackhawk Network gift card subsidiary has set up offices in Germany, France and Australia, and plans to sell product in those countries by the end of the year, Steve Burd, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Safeway here, said last week during an earnings call. Safeway established Blackhawk in 2001 as a prepaid card and payment network. It is now a third-party supplier of gift cards in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the U.K., and is selling cards in more than 63,000 retail locations, Burd said. Blackhawk is expected to contribute $100 million of Safeway’s pre-tax income this year, he said. Safeway is currently hiring staff to set up offices in additional countries that Burd declined to name. “We should have an international presence in more than six countries as we build that infrastructure. And keep in mind, the infrastructure is built at a relatively modest cost. We are talking an office and a couple of people.” Blackhawk has also introduced two new products that are currently being sold at Safeway and will be rolled out through the rest of the retail network throughout 2007, Burd said. One product, which Burd refused to describe, is “a bit more embryonic,” he said. The other is Visa’s ReadyLink network, which allows consumers to add funds to eligible, reloadable prepaid cards from Visa, San Francisco, at Safeway stores. Safeway has the rights to this network throughout the grocery channel, Burd said. The card is generally issued by state government and employers as a payroll or benefit card, he said.
— Wendy Toth