British lawmakers launch inquiry into cryptocurrencies

A global investment craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the last year has seen wild gyrations in their valuations, making fortunes for some investors, while others have lost heavily. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2018
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British lawmakers launch inquiry into cryptocurrencies

LONDON: Britain’s cross-party Treasury Select Committee of lawmakers on Thursday said it is launching an inquiry into digital currencies, as well as the underlying distributed ledger technology.
The probe will focus on the opportunities and risks posed to consumers, businesses and the government by the rising popularity of so-called cryptocurrencies, the committee said in a statement.
A global investment craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the last year has seen wild gyrations in their valuations, making fortunes for some investors, while others have lost heavily.
Bitcoin, the best-known virtual currency, lost over half its value earlier this year after surging more than 1,300 percent.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but they may not be aware that they are currently unregulated in the UK, and that there is no protection for individual investors,” Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, said.
The British committee of politicians will take written and verbal evidence from a range of experts on the digital currencies, which will then inform a report it submits to the government containing recommendations on what to do.
The inquiry will consider whether the government is striking the right balance between protecting customers and businesses without stifling innovation.
Governments and regulators worldwide have in recent months shown themselves divided on what to do about cryptocurrencies, which have already spawned investment scams promising returns of over 1,000 percent and hacks on the exchanges that store the virtual funds.
The finance ministers and central bank governors of France and Germany earlier this month called for the policy and monetary implications of cryptocurrencies to be placed on the agenda of the upcoming G20 meeting of the largest advanced and developing economies.
The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney meanwhile on Monday said that bitcoin has “pretty much failed” as a currency measured by standard benchmarks, and is neither a store of value nor a useful way to buy things.
But the BoE is one of a number of central banks and governments around the world that are looking into the underlying blockchain technology as a potential way of issuing digital-only currency, for making settlement more efficient, or for distributing and tracking money in the public sector.


UAE’s Network International shrugs off Brexit to list shares in London

Updated 40 min 44 sec ago
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UAE’s Network International shrugs off Brexit to list shares in London

  • The planned share sale comes at an uncertain time in the UK
  • The company, which operates hospitals in the Middle East, was said to be also considering listing in the US or Singapore

SEAN CRONIN DUBAI: Network International, the UAE payments processor, has committed to a London IPO next month in what would be the UK’s first big share sale of the year.
The company intends to have a free float of at least 25 percent and admission to the London Stock Exchange is expected to take place in April, Network International said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.
The planned share sale comes at an uncertain time in the UK where there is still no clarity around whether Britain will leave the EU or not at the end of the month.
VPS Healthcare, the Abu Dhabi-based hospital operator, is reconsidering plans to list in London due to uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Bloomberg reported on Thursday citing a person familiar with the matter.
The company, which operates hospitals in the Middle East, was said to be also considering listing in the US or Singapore.
Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank, owns 51 percent of Network International while Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic jointly own the rest.
The share sale will be a key test of investor demand for new listings in London after a subdued 2018 across most European markets.
“Volatility has continued in recent months, driven by the uncertainty around trade between the US and China, the wider geopolitical climate and the potential end of the current bull run,” said Peter Whelan, partner and UK IPO Lead at PwC in a recent report.
“We are seeing a healthy number of companies preparing for an IPO in 2019 despite the ongoing Brexit negotiations which have clearly impacted IPO activity on the London market.”
The payment processor reported earnings of $298 million last year according to its website, up from $262 million a year earlier. It does not disclose net income figures.
The company handles digital payments across the Middle East, which generate three quarters of its total earnings.
Last year it processed some $40 billion in payments for more than 65,000 merchants.
Its key markets in the region include the UAE and Jordan it says that Saudi Arabia offers “significant opportunities.” It also offers services in 40 African countries with Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa being its most important segments on the continent.