El Salvador becomes first country to make bitcoin legal tender

Bitcoin banners are seen outside of a small restaurant at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
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Bitcoin banners are seen outside of a small restaurant at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
A couple make a Bitcoin transaction at a Bitcoin support office at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
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A couple make a Bitcoin transaction at a Bitcoin support office at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
People make a Bitcoin transaction and learn how to use it at a Bitcoin support office at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador, on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
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People make a Bitcoin transaction and learn how to use it at a Bitcoin support office at El Zonte Beach in Chiltiupan, El Salvador, on June 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
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Updated 10 June 2021

El Salvador becomes first country to make bitcoin legal tender

El Salvador becomes first country to make bitcoin legal tender
  • Will become legal tender in 90 days
  • Prices can be expressed, taxes paid in bitcoin

SAN SALVADOR: El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after Congress on Wednesday approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency, a move that delighted the currency’s supporters.
With 62 out of 84 possible votes, lawmakers voted in favor of the move to create a law to adopt bitcoin, despite concern about the potential impact on El Salvador’s program with the International Monetary Fund.
Bukele has touted the use of bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home, while saying the US dollar will also continue as legal tender. El Salvador does not have its own currency.
“It will bring financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation and economic development for our country,” Bukele said in a tweet shortly before the vote in Congress, which is controlled by his party and allies.
In an idea he appeared to have developed overnight, Bukele later said he had instructed state-owned geothermal electric firm LaGeo to develop a plan to offer bitcoin mining facilities using renewable energy from the country’s volcanoes.
He said the idea was to build a bitcoin mining hub around the country’s geothermal potential. He also said that El Salvador would offer citizenship to people who showed evidence they had invested in at least three bitcoins.
The use of bitcoin will be optional for individuals and would not bring risks to users, Bukele said, with the government guaranteeing convertibility to dollars at the time of transaction through a $150 million trust created at the country’s development bank BANDESAL.
Under the law, bitcoin must be accepted by firms when offered as payment for goods and services. Tax contributions can also be paid in the cryptocurrency.
“If you go to a McDonald’s or whatever, they cannot say we’re not going to take your bitcoin, they have to take it by law because it’s a legal tender,” Bukele said in an online conversation he held with crypto-currency industry figures in parallel to the debate in Congress.
Its use as legal tender will begin in 90 days, with the bitcoin-dollar exchange rate set by the market. Bukele said the government and Central Bank did not currently hold any bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency supporters hailed the move as legitimising the emerging asset, but its impact on bitcoin regulation, taxation or adoption in other countries remains to be seen.
There were no immediate signs that other countries would follow El Salvador’s embrace of bitcoin.
“Whether this becomes the first in what becomes a trend and then snowballs, or whether this will be a blip, we will only know through history,” said Brandon Thomas, partner at advisory firm Grayline Group.
Analysts have also said the move could complicate talks with the IMF, where El Salvador seeks a more than $1 billion program.
Bukele said he will meet with the IMF on Thursday to discuss the bitcoin law, among other issues. He said in setting up the meeting he had tried to explain to them that the shift was “not going to change our macroeconomics.”
Bitcoin enjoyed its best day in two weeks, rising as much as 6 percent to $35,200.
“The market will now be focused on adoption through El Salvador and whether other nations follow,” said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management. “This could be a key catalyst for bitcoin over the next two to three years.”

Beach inspiration
It was not immediately clear how long Bukele had been working on the bitcoin plan, but he said on Wednesday he was inspired by a project called Bitcoin Beach that introduced the cryptocurrency in an El Salvador beach town last year.
He worked on the idea with Jack Mallers, CEO of Strike, a digital wallet that uses the Lightning Network to enable small payments in Bitcoin.
Bukele has also pointed out a tweet of his from 2017, before he was a presidential candidate, in which he suggested using bitcoin.
Emerging economies — where bank penetration is much lower than in developed countries and reliance on money transfers from abroad much higher — have quickly warmed to cryptocurrencies.
Outside the United States, countries with the highest crypto production and trading volumes are all developing nations, according to BofA, including China, Colombia and India.
Bukele says some 70 percent of people in El Salvador lack access to traditional financial services.
But the use of digital currencies in general can also pose risks for dollarized economies, analysts say.
“The root cause of dollarization is high local inflation, which could worsen, too, if digital currencies prove inflationary,” said David Hauner at BofA.
El Salvador relies heavily on money sent back from workers abroad. World Bank data showed remittances to the country made up nearly $6 billion or around a fifth of GDP in 2019, one of the highest ratios in the world. The cryptocurrency offers, in theory, a quick and cheap way to send money across borders without relying on remittance firms typically used for such transactions. It is not clear what proportion of remittances sent to El Salvador are in bitcoin.
Converting local currencies to and from bitcoin often relies on informal brokers, while trading often demands technical knowledge.
El Salvador will promote training and mechanisms to allow access to bitcoin transactions, the law said.
Financial regulators and policymakers warn bitcoin facilitates money laundering and other illicit uses.
Bukele brushed off the fears, saying criminals already use US dollars and other assets to launder money.
“The problem is not the dollar, it is the criminals,” he said. 


Argentinian exchange gets $50m in latest funding round: Market wrap 

Argentinian exchange gets $50m in latest funding round: Market wrap 
Updated 22 September 2021

Argentinian exchange gets $50m in latest funding round: Market wrap 

Argentinian exchange gets $50m in latest funding round: Market wrap 

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded lower on Wednesday, falling by 1.185 percent to $42,270.82 at 4:26 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, traded at $2,939.71, down by 3.05 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.

Funding

Argentina-based Latin American exchange Ripio has successfully raised $50 million in its latest Series B funding round.

The exchange, which has a strong position in its home country and Brazil, will use these new funds to expand into other areas of South America, such as Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay later this year.

These funds will also help Ripio continue to grow its Latam brand, after it acquired Bitcointrade, one of the most popular exchanges in Brazil

"For us, this announcement is a natural step that allows us to continue expanding and consolidating our products in the region, with the mission of expanding access to the crypto world, building simple tools and offering quality information and resources to facilitate the path to the new digital economy,” Sebastian Serrano, CEO of Ripio said.

The round had the participation of bitcoin investor Tim Draper, Amplo (investors of Robinhood), Marcos Galperin (CEO of Mercado Libre), and Martin Migoya (CEO of Globant), led by Digital Currency Group (DCG).

 

Bye-bye Binance

Meanwhile, amid worldwide regulatory scrutiny, global crypto exchange Binance has announced that it will stop offering futures contracts, options and leveraged tokens to Australian users within 90 days.

"Effective from 24 September, 9 a.m. (UTC), existing Australian users will have 90 days to reduce and close their positions for these products," Binance explained.

 

Iran urged to change policy 

In Iran, some parliamentarians have set out to change the government’s regulatory stance toward cryptocurrencies, citing opportunities to use them to improve the country’s economy.

They also expressed concerns about Tehran’s restrictive policies toward innovations. 

After the release of a study that recommended a new approach to the crypto industry, lawmakers have called for the adoption of friendlier regulations.

“Taking a restrictive approach only pushes innovative solutions underground,” a spokesman for the council's economic committee, Gholamreza Marhaba, told Iranian media.

He also said: “Our studies show that 50 percent of crypto activities are in the informal market. This is while supportive regulations can help enhance contribution of the digital currency to the economy.”


Al-Falih invites Greek investors to explore opportunities in Saudi Arabia

Al-Falih invites Greek investors to explore opportunities in Saudi Arabia
Updated 22 September 2021

Al-Falih invites Greek investors to explore opportunities in Saudi Arabia

Al-Falih invites Greek investors to explore opportunities in Saudi Arabia
  • An agreement was signed to establish the Saudi-Greek Business Council

RIYADH: Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih on Wednesday said the Kingdom seeks to benefit from Greece’s vast experience in the logistics, tourism and hospitality sectors.

Al-Falih, who is visiting Greece, held a meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at Maximos Mansion in Athens.

During the meeting, they discussed bilateral ties and explored ways of expanding growing cooperation between the two countries in various areas.

“The Kingdom’s economy is opening up to the world at an unprecedented pace and volume, and it offers promising investment opportunities for investors from all over the world,” Al-Falih said in a statement.

He invited Greek investors and companies to explore the opportunities in the Kingdom and further strengthen bilateral ties.

“This visit is to confirm that together we can take our current relationship to even greater heights, and I look forward to welcoming more Greek investors to the Kingdom,” he said.

An agreement was signed to establish the Saudi-Greek Business Council, which will work to facilitate bilateral trade and exchange information on investment opportunities.

 


PIF first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds, Al-Rumayyan says

PIF first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds, Al-Rumayyan says
Updated 22 September 2021

PIF first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds, Al-Rumayyan says

PIF first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds, Al-Rumayyan says
  • The PIF has been given the mandate to develop nearly 70 percent of renewable projects in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will be the first sovereign wealth fund to issue green bonds, PIF Gov. Yasir Al-Rumayyan said at an event organized by the Future Investment Initiative Institute on Tuesday.

The issuance is part of the fund’s plan of shifting toward green investments.

“The Kingdom aims to deploy 50 percent of its investments in renewable and sustainable power sources,” Al-Rumayyan said.

The PIF has been given the mandate to develop nearly 70 percent of renewable projects in Saudi Arabia through its portfolio companies, the organization’s chief said.

Utilities and renewables are among the 13 sectors identified by the fund as part of its Vision 2030 strategy.

Saudi Arabia has seen a surge of interest in initiatives related to environmental, social, and governance amid growing awareness among global investors about ESG risks.

Al-Rumayyan said PIF was working with BlackRock on the ESG framework.

“We’re working with many partners from all over the world, domestically and internationally, to have better ESG compliance (in) all the things that we do,” Al-Rumayyan said.

One of the companies PIF owns, the Red Sea Development Co. which is building a new beach resort in the kingdom, secured a $3.8 billion green loan earlier this year for new hotels powered by renewable energy.

Saudi Arabia will announce its “Green Initiative” next month, followed by the “Middle East Initiative,” which includes planting 50 billion trees, Al-Rumayyan said.

“We have long-term views. We don’t want to exploit all of our resources overnight,” he said.

The PIF governor said Saudi oil has the lowest emission in the world. “Our oil is the best when it comes to emission,” Al-Rumayyan added.

Saudi Arabia is now more interested to invest in lower impacting energies toward the environment.

“We are one of the most efficient when it comes to sustainability and renewable energy. So today, as I said, our solar power production is costing us only 1.2 cents per kWh versus some other pretty restrictions, it’s over $0.15,” Al-Rumayyan said.


Stocks rebound as Evergrande jitters ease: Reuters

Stocks rebound as Evergrande jitters ease: Reuters
Updated 22 September 2021

Stocks rebound as Evergrande jitters ease: Reuters

Stocks rebound as Evergrande jitters ease: Reuters

U.S. and European stocks churned higher on Wednesday as market jitters around property developer China Evergrande eased, while the dollar index edged lower ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, Reuters has reported.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.62 percent, bouncing back for a second day after it logged its biggest one-day percentage drop in two months on Monday.

Wall Street's main indexes moved higher in early Wednesday trade following solid gains for markets in Europe.

China Evergrande agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond, while the Chinese central bank injected cash into the banking system, soothing investors' fears of imminent contagion from the debt-laden property developer that had pressured equities and other riskier assets at the start of the week.

"Right or wrong, people I think are starting to show signs that they think maybe this pullback has reached its worst point," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas. "It wasn't entirely the Evergrande situation, but it seems like that was one of the biggest pieces of it."

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 361.36 points, or 1.07 percent, to 34,281.2, the S&P 500 gained 37.02 points, or 0.85 percent, to 4,391.21 and the Nasdaq Composite added 88.66 points, or 0.6 percent, to 14,835.06.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.93 percent, with bank stocks surging.

With a number of central banks around the world meeting this week, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) offered a bleaker view on exports and output as Asian factory shutdowns caused supply bottlenecks, but maintained its optimism that robust global growth would keep the economic recovery on track. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda also brushed aside fears that the debt problems of Evergrande could disrupt the global financial system.

Investors were closely watching the Fed, with the U.S. central bank expected to clear the way on Wednesday for reductions to its monthly asset purchases later this year.

The dollar index fell 0.102 percent, with the euro up 0.16 percent to $1.1742. The Japanese yen weakened 0.32 percent versus the greenback at 109.56 per dollar.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last rose 1/32 in price to yield 1.3209 percent, from 1.324 percent late on Tuesday.

Oil prices climbed after industry data showed U.S. crude stocks fell more than expected last week after two hurricanes, highlighting tight supply as demand improves.

U.S. crude rose 1.93 percent to $71.85 per barrel and Brent was at $75.77, up 1.9 perncet on the day.

Spot gold dropped 0.1 percent to $1,773.31 an ounce, after three sessions of gains.

 


Burgerizzr pays $2.1m in cash dividends in H1

Burgerizzr pays $2.1m in cash dividends in H1
Updated 22 September 2021

Burgerizzr pays $2.1m in cash dividends in H1

Burgerizzr pays $2.1m in cash dividends in H1

Burgerizzr board of directors have signed off on SR8 million ($2.1 million) in cash dividends for the first half of 2021, according to a filing.

The pay-out — worth SR 3.2 per share - come as the restaurant chain’s profits increased by 16 percent to SR6.49 million ($1.73 million) during the first half of this year.

Burgerizzr, run by Shatirah House Restaurant Company, saw its net profits rise thanks to the opening of 13 new branches in the period to the end of June 2021.

Financing costs and losses on the disposal of property and equipment also decreased, according to Tadawul.

The total income of the company amounted to SR24.4 million in the first half of this year, up 28 percent compared to SR19 million during the same period in 2020.

The operating profit amounted to SR7 million, up 5 percent, compared to SR6.8 million for H1 last year.

Earnings per share during the period amounted to SR2.6, compared to SR2.25 during the first six months of last year.