Space, the final frontier for billionaire Richard Branson

Space, the final frontier for billionaire Richard Branson
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos stand on the verge of lift-off, days apart, on the first crewed flights by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, both founded in the early 2000s. ( AFP / Virgin Galactic / Handout)
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Updated 09 July 2021

Space, the final frontier for billionaire Richard Branson

Space, the final frontier for billionaire Richard Branson
  • Richard Branson dedicates drive to his mother who died of COVID-19
  • Branson, who was knighted in 2000 for his services to entrepreneurship, had hoped to join a commercial flight with Virgin Galactic as early as 2009

LONDON: As famous for his thrill-seeking lifestyle and publicity stunts as for his vast business empire, Richard Branson has set his sights on the stars as he prepares for liftoff on his first space flight.
Before this weekend’s mission on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity, the avowed Star Trek fan attributed his drive and taste for adventure to his mother Eve, who died from Covid in January.
“I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,” said the London-born 70-year-old.
The Virgin group boss, whose net worth amounts to $5.7 billion according to Forbes magazine, made his initial fortune in the record industry in the 1970s.
He has since launched a string of successful companies in sectors as diverse as railways and mobile phones, as well as Virgin Atlantic airlines.
But there have been plenty of missteps.
His failures include a short-lived attempt at Formula One racing, a stab at the soft drinks market with Virgin Cola, and a wedding company called Virgin Bride, which some said existed only because of the name.
Branson was said to have been a below-average student who suffered from dyslexia, his headmaster at private school in southern England apparently telling him he would either go to prison or become a millionaire.
He set up Virgin Records when he was just 20 and earned his first million pounds three years later, buying his own Caribbean island a few years afterwards.
The record label’s breakthrough came with “Tubular Bells,” a 1973 instrumental album by the British musician Mike Oldfield, which sold millions of copies.
His mother was an air stewardess, so perhaps he was following in the family footsteps when he set up his airline in 1984.
But his business practices and publicity stunts since then have irked many.
In 2006, it emerged Virgin Atlantic and British Airways had engaged in price fixing, though his firm avoided any punishment because they tipped off the authorities.
And last year, he asked the British government for £500 million to help Virgin Atlantic weather the economic fallout of the Covid lockdown, despite having paid no income tax in Britain for more than a decade.
Politicians accused him of “milking the system.”
In 2012, a columnist for The Guardian newspaper compared him to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “in that both believe the world revolves around them.”
Ironic as Branson has tried and failed several times to become the first person to go around the world non-stop in a balloon.
At the age of 28, Branson bought Necker Island, where he has hosted lavish parties and getaways for celebrities and political leaders including former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Much of Branson’s publicity over the years has been based around his adventuring, in which he has tackled a number of records in speedboats, balloons and even an amphibious car.
These exploits brought him close to tragedy in 1998 when he and his co-pilot were forced to ditch their balloon in the Pacific Ocean after low pressure forced the craft down.
His efforts in recent years have focused on his space tourism company, founded in 2004 and based in the Mojave desert in California.
Branson, who was knighted in 2000 for his services to entrepreneurship, had hoped to join a commercial flight with Virgin Galactic as early as 2009.
But its timeline has been hit by a series of delays including a tragic crash in 2014 that claimed the life of a test pilot.
“Space is hard — but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together,” he said following the crash.


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

Argentinian exchange gets $50m in latest funding round: Market wrap 
Updated 32 sec ago

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 5 min 47 sec ago

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.