Egypt’s first bitcoin exchange to begin trading this month

The value of bitcoin has roughly quadrupled since the start of 2017 and was trading at around $4,400 on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Egypt’s first bitcoin exchange to begin trading this month

CAIRO: Egypt’s first bitcoin exchange will go live later this month, the founders of Bitcoin Egypt said, linking the Middle East’s most populous country with a cryptocurrency that has surged in value in recent months.
Many governments around the world are still mulling how to regulate and classify bitcoin, a volatile digital currency that has captured the interest of speculative investors worldwide as its value has soared, roughly quadrupling since the start of 2017 and trading at around $4,400 on Thursday.
Egypt, most of whose 93 million people have no bank accounts but where electronic payments have grown in recent years, lacks regulations for digital currency. This means local retailers cannot accept it as payment but users on an exchange may be left to trade freely, potentially cashing in on its ascent.
“We’re still waiting on the Egyptian government to set some kind of regulations ... Without any laws, bitcoin is not legal money in Egypt,” said Bitcoin Egypt founder Rami Khalil.
He said the exchange has picked up about 300 pre-registrations from users ahead of its launch.
The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, the country’s financial markets regulator, did not respond to requests for comment.
Khalil and co-founder Omar Abdelrasoul see their platform connecting a community of several thousand bitcoin enthusiasts who will for the first time be able to trade in Egyptian pounds, which have roughly halved in value since November after flotation under an International Monetary Fund loan program.
“Cryptoassets are happening whether (the Egyptian government) joins in or not. And by not joining they’re missing out on a very big market. Currently bitcoin is about a $70 billion market,” said Khalil.
Cryptocurrencies allow anonymous peer-to-peer transactions between individual users, without the need for banks or central banks.
Bitcoin’s lack of central authority makes it attractive to those wanting to get around capital controls. This has helped it proliferate in China, the world’s most active bitcoin market, but has led some governments to crack down on its use to prevent money laundering.
Those same dynamics could propel bitcoin in Egypt, where a shortage of hard currency after the 2011 uprising sharply restricted bank transfers. Though liquidity at banks has improved and capital controls have been lifted in recent months, businesses still resort to a black market for dollars to obtain currency not available in the formal banking system.
“We’re trying to get people used to the idea of bitcoin, to ready the market so that in a couple of years we will reach a greater number of users. But for now we are trying to let people know what cryptocurrency is,” said Abdelrasoul.


OPEC oil ministers gather to discuss production increase

Updated 19 June 2018
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OPEC oil ministers gather to discuss production increase

  • Analysts expect the group to discuss an increase in production of about 1 million barrels a day
  • The officials were arriving in Vienna ahead of the official meeting Friday

VIENNA: The oil ministers of the OPEC cartel were gathering Tuesday to discuss this week whether to increase production of crude and help limit a rise in global energy prices.
The officials were arriving in Vienna ahead of the official meeting Friday, when they will also confer with Russia, a non-OPEC country that since late 2016 has cooperated with the cartel to limit production.
Analysts expect the group to discuss an increase in production of about 1 million barrels a day, ending the output cut agreed on in 2016.
The cut has since then pushed up the price of crude oil by about 50 percent. The US benchmark in May hit its highest level in three and half years, at $72.35 a barrel.
Upon arriving, the energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, Suhail Al Mazrouei, said: “It’s going to be hopefully a good meeting. We look forward to having this gathering with OPEC and non-OPEC.”
The 14 countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries make more money with higher prices, but are mindful of the fact that more expensive crude can encourage a shift to renewable resources and hurt demand.
“Consumers as well as businesses will be hoping that this week’s OPEC meeting succeeds in keeping a lid on prices, and in so doing calling a halt to a period which has seen a steady rise in fuel costs,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK
The rise in the cost of oil has been a key factor in driving up consumer price inflation in major economies like the US and Europe in recent months.
Already US President Donald Trump has called on OPEC to cut production, tweeting in April and again this month that “OPEC is at it again” by allowing oil prices to rise.
Within OPEC, an increase in output will not affect all countries equally. While Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s biggest producer, is seen to be open to a rise in production, other countries cannot afford to do so. Those include Iran and Venezuela, whose industries are stymied either by international sanctions or domestic turmoil. Iran is a fierce regional rival to Saudi Arabia, meaning the OPEC deal could also influence the geopolitics in the Middle East.