Top Chinese bitcoin exchange shuts down

Above, a physical bitcoin from Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCC. (Courtesy BTCC)
Updated 14 September 2017
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Top Chinese bitcoin exchange shuts down

BEIJING: One of the biggest bitcoin exchanges in China and the world announced Thursday that it would stop all trading following new Chinese government regulations clamping down on crypto-currencies.
The international value of bitcoin has plunged in recent days amid speculation that the Chinese authorities will shut down the trading platforms following last week’s ban on initial coin offerings.
BTCC – China’s second bitcoin platform in terms of volume and the world’s third largest – said on its Twitter account that “after carefully considering” the announcement by Chinese regulators, it will “stop all trading” on September 30.
The Chinese central bank’s announcement last week meant that Chinese firms would no longer be able to issue electronic currency units to raise funds.
Following the decision, the National Internet Finance Association of China said Wednesday that there was “no legal basis for platforms which engage in the trading of various forms of ‘virtual currencies’”.
The association, which was created by the central bank, warned on its website that such currencies are “increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, and illegal fundraising”.
The crypto-currency sank late Thursday.
According to the Bitcoin Price Index, which offers an average of the various global platforms, the currency had plunged as low as $3,640 by Thursday evening after peaking at an all-time high of around $4,359 on Tuesday.
The Chinese central bank’s move last week was seen as a way for Beijing to gain control over crypto-currencies, which are created using blockchain technology and are sold and bought online without any government regulation.
In an attempt to halt capital flight overseas and clean up its financial system, Beijing began early this year to tighten controls on bitcoin trading platforms by restricting, in particular, transactions considered excessively speculative.
The two main Chinese platforms, BTCC and Okcoin which operate in yuan, account for 22 percent of the world trade in bitcoins, according to reference website bitcoinity.org.


NMC Health stock jumps as earnings rise and group looks to Saudi Arabia

Updated 57 min 23 sec ago
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NMC Health stock jumps as earnings rise and group looks to Saudi Arabia

  • Shares gain as profits rise
  • Analysts upbeat on prospects

LONDON: The UAE-based private health care operator NMC Health is looking to further expand into Saudi Arabia, buoyed by strong revenue growth and strategic acquisitions made in the first half of the year.

The company reported on Monday a 20.2 percent increase in revenue in the first six months of the year, to reach $932 million. Healthcare revenues alone rose by 25.8 percent to $706 million. Net profit also rose to $116.7 million, a 19.3 percent increase on the same time period the year before.

The stock was up more than 3 percent in early afternoon trade in London.

The results met with analysts’ expectations, who continue to be upbeat about the company’s prospects.

“These are good results from NMC Health and the positive outlook has clearly been well received by the market. The shares are up 5 percent in early trading following a strong run already this year,” said analyst Ian Forrest at the UK-based The Share Center.

“NMC’s impressive H1 results demonstrated that it continues to deliver its operational and strategic targets,” said Charles Weston, senior equity research analyst at Berenberg, in a note on Monday.

“We had projected 20 percent revenue growth and a 32 percent rise in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization), and both were met.”

Acquiring new assets and growth in existing home markets helped drive the increase in revenue, said Prasanth Manghat, chief executive officer, in a statement on Monday.

“The first half of 2018 saw NMC continue to demonstrate strong organic growth alongside complementary acquisitions, resulting in the realization of improved financial results,” he said.

The health care operator has made a number of acquisitions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the last year as it looks to capitalize on Kingdom’s health sector privatization plans.

Earlier this year, it completed the acquisition of the Chronic Care Specialist Medical Center in Jeddah. It also obtained an 80 percent stake in the Riyadh-based Al Salam Medical Group in April 2018.

The company took its first steps into the cosmetics market this year, acquiring a 70 percent stake in the Dubai-based CosmeSurge, which has an expanding network of clinics throughout the UAE.

In June, NMC signed a joint-venture agreement with the Saudi Arabian Hassana Investment Company — the investment arm of the the state-backed pension fund, General Organization for Social Insurance.

It is a move which is expected to “substantially” increase the company’s expansion in the Kingdom.

“Our previously announced agreement with Hassana Investment Company to form a joint venture, good macro-economic conditions in the health care sector in Saudi Arabia, and a strong country management team provides an exciting platform from which our Saudi Arabian business will be grown further,” said Manghat.

The JV is anticipated to become the second largest health care operator in Saudi Arabia in terms of the number of beds, according to a company statement. It is due to be completed in the fourth quarter this year, and a management team are in place in the Kingdom.

NMC’s planned expansion into Saudi Arabia will be further supported by the $450 million convertible bond it issued in April.

The bond forms part of the company’s strategy to retain its recently-won place on London’s FTSE 100 index. It was one of the first Middle Eastern companies to join the index when it qualified last September. It first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2012.

The company’s growth this year has been also attributed to organic growth in the UAE with the increase in the number of operational beds at the NMC Royal
Hospital in Abu Dhabi as well as the introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai last year.

Health care is seen as a lucrative sector in the Gulf due to its relatively wealthy population becoming increasingly at risk of problems related to obesity and diseases such as type 2 diabetes.