Bitcoin, Ether rise after a volatile week as Fed assesses crypto risk for first time

Bitcoin, Ether rise after a volatile week as Fed assesses crypto risk for first time
Bitcoin traded higher on Sunday after a volatile week, increasing by 0.4 percent to $33,956 at 6:20 p.m. Riyadh time. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 July 2021

Bitcoin, Ether rise after a volatile week as Fed assesses crypto risk for first time

Bitcoin, Ether rise after a volatile week as Fed assesses crypto risk for first time
  • Tether is the third-biggest cryptocurrency in the world by market value

RIYADH: Bitcoin traded higher on Sunday after a volatile week, increasing by 0.4 percent to $33,956 at 6:20 p.m. Riyadh time. Ether was up by 1.47 percent to trade at $2,140, reversing a decline from Friday, according to data from Coindesk.

Below is the main news on cryptocurrency over the week:

The US Federal Reserve on Friday singled out for the first time a dramatic rise in the price of cryptocurrencies in its overall assessment of the financial system’s stability, according to Bloomberg. The Fed is more concerned about cryptos than ever, with chairman Jerome Powell meeting the head of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. on May 11 and crypto advocate Christopher Giancarlo a day later, according to the central banker’s monthly diary.

The bank, in its Monetary Policy Report, told Congress that “the surge in the prices of a variety of crypto-assets” reflected investors’ increased risk appetite. While Fed officials have discussed crypto before, the institution itself has seldom, if ever, used the asset class as a benchmark to consider broader market conditions.

Tether is the third-biggest cryptocurrency in the world by market value and it has some economists — including a Fed official — worried. Some investors and economists are worried that Tether’s issuer does not have enough dollar reserves to justify its dollar peg. With more than $60 billion worth of tokens in circulation, Tether has more deposits than that of many US banks, according to Coindesk.

The Bank of Thailand issued a warning notice, titled “Caution on Using Digital Assets as Means of Payment for Goods and Services” on Thursday, according to Bitcoin News. The bank said a growing number of companies were asking for payments in cryptocurrencies, but reiterated its stance on crypto and warned of the risks of using it as a means of payment.


Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
Updated 54 min 35 sec ago

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII
  • Business bigwigs debate and brainstorm how to solve big problems at global level

RIYADH: The Future Investment Initiative Forum returned to Riyadh on Tuesday, two years after the city last hosted the event, at which powerful and affluent people from around the world traditionally gather to look for big contract opportunities.

But this year, the fifth staging of the forum, is different. There was no talk about big contracts; instead, the powerful participants were discussing how can we give back to humanity and solve big problems at a global level. It is all about sustainability and investing in humanity.

The return of the FII after a postponement of a year caused by the pandemic, is a sign that the worst is behind us — at least in Saudi Arabia, which is going through a deep transformation.

Riyadh is no longer talking a language all of its own. It is now talking a global language that includes terms such as “saving the planet,” “sustainability,” “carbon emissions reduction” and “planning for a better world.”

The Saudis wanted to make sure that the launch of this year’s forum would send a strong message and they found no better way of achieving than by having renowned singer Gloria Gaynor appear and perform her famous song, “I Will Survive,” during the opening.

The world, and Saudi Arabia, has survived the pandemic, with all the hard decisions and tough measures this took, from the rapid development of vaccines to prohibiting Muslims from gathering in mosques to pray.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that big asset-management businesses such as BlackRock and Blackstone might exist for anything other than making big deals, but their respective bosses Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman are talking about subjects such as inequality and future generations at the forum.

Still, some things at the FII remain the same. The corridors are filled with people in fancy suits and dresses and the event is still a gathering place for the biggest deal-makers on the planet, who collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets.

Empowerment of women is another hot topic, and it was surprising to hear Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder, talk candidly about how his company has had trouble recruiting women.

“Like many people in finance, we were having a lot of trouble hiring women,” he said during the opening panel discussion on Tuesday. “It was a male-dominated business and we made a decision to change that in 2015.

“We analyzed it and what we realized is that women weren’t applying to Blackstone. We tried to find out why and we found out that they were scared of us. I don’t think I’m very scary.”

Ana Botin, chairperson of Banco Santander, was the only woman on the eight-person panel, although there were female speakers at the opening of the forum.

As the first day of the event was ending, Saudi Aramco announced deals that will help it become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Indeed, the world has changed.


Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation

Saudi market at the forefront of digital transformation
  • Kingdom leading consumer trends in the region, says Bain & Company Middle East partner

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world to a whole other level of digitalization and the youth are the driving force behind the ongoing digital transformation, said Anne-Laure Malauzat, partner at Bain and Company Middle East.
Talking on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh on Tuesday, she said Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in terms of contactless payments and other innovative solutions.
“We’ve seen the Kingdom lead in a number of things, the first one, for example, is everything that has to do with social media penetration. The Kingdom is known to have some of the highest social media utilization in the world,” Malauzat told Arab News.
She said YouTube utilization in Saudi Arabia is also one of the highest in the world. “With over 85 percent of people who have access to YouTube and watch YouTube on a regular basis, which is quite high,” she said.
Malauzat also pointed out that the region is also leading the way in terms of millennial and younger customers that are dictating change in market behavior and consumption pattern. 
She said that people in the Kingdom no longer want to spend time in making payments. “They want seamlessness and convenience and if it’s not convenient they might actually drop the purchase that’s how demanding our consumers are here,” she said.
The entrepreneur said the coronavirus pandemic has changed several things in the world and has forced companies rethink their strategies to deal with the changed environment focussed on digitalization.
“The main question we kept asking ourselves is we’re seeing the world changed especially in the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic and we were wondering whether the change in the region was going to be different than around the world. What we found is actually there are quite a lot of similarities between the global and regional trends,” she said.
“We thought we were digital before COVID-19 now it’s a whole other level of digitalization,” Malauzat said.
“For example, we’ve seen that in Saudi Arabia, there are over 90 percent of people who said that they started shopping online more frequently following the COVID-19 pandemic and over 50 percent of those people said they would stick to their behaviors even after the pandemic.”
She said what happened was a structural change in how people purchase and shop.
Another example that occurred mainly due to the pandemic, she added, is that more people have started giving preference to their local products. 
“People were traveling less due to the pandemic so they spend more and more money locally and as a result the local offerings have grown; there has been a growth in local brands in different sectors whether it’s food or fashion. We’ve seen a rise of the local supply to meet the growing demand,” she said.


Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy

Saudi development fund issues $3bn to Pakistan to help support economy
  • The funds will help the Pakistani government support its foreign currency reserves

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) announced it will deposit $3 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan to help the Pakistani government support its foreign currency reserves and in combating the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
SFD said that the directive was issued to finance the oil derivatives trade with $1.2 billion throughout the year.
The fund added that these directives confirm the Kingdom’s continued stance in supporting the Pakistani economy.


FII: Bank chiefs, CEOs pass mixed verdict on cryptocurrency investment

CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2021

FII: Bank chiefs, CEOs pass mixed verdict on cryptocurrency investment

CNN's Richard Quest (L) moderates a session at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2021. (AFP)
  • Saudi central bank chief does not foresee destruction of banking system by digital currencies
  • Leading investors still view gold and dollar as a safer haven for investments than bitcoin

RIYADH: The verdict on cryptocurrency products and funds was mixed as CEOs, central bank chiefs, investors and policymakers exchanged views on the topic on the first day of the Future Investment Forum in the Saudi capital.

The three-day forum, which is themed “Invest in Humanity,” includes talks on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability.

Taking part in a session on Tuesday, Fahad Al-Mubarak, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s central bank, said SAMA should have no involvement with crypto-assets as many of those who deal in them are criminals.

He did not foresee the destruction of the banking system by digital currencies but rather an expansion of centralized systems for regulating tender.

Bitcoin is the leading digital currency trading internationally, followed by Ether and Solana.

The three-day forum, which is themed “Invest in Humanity,” includes talks on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability. (AFP)

Regulators are still playing catch-up when it comes to how cryptocurrencies should be governed, Al-Mubarak said.

Having made his point, he noted that there has been a sharp jump in online banking during the coronavirus disease pandemic. “Before the pandemic, only 35 percent of bank transactions were electronic,” he said. “Now it’s around 55 percent.”

Hussain Abdulla, co-CEO of Qatar-based investment bank QInvest, said cryptocurrency products were not yet Shariah-compliant, and more understanding was needed.

Nevertheless, he warned that the Middle East is lagging way behind the US and Europe when it comes to digitization of the banking industry.

“Winners in the banking industry will be those who take steps today toward digitization rather than later,” Abdulla said.

Several prominent business people who took part in FII sessions on Tuesday said leading investors still view gold and the dollar as a safer haven for investments than bitcoin.

Both Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and David Solomon, chairman and CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group, said they preferred investments in US dollar over bitcoin.

Ray Dalio, founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, opted for gold over bitcoin.

Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak, CEO and managing director of the UAE’s Mubadala Investment Co., said he would take bitcoin “hedged in gold.”

In the past week, the crypto industry has seen inflows to the tune of $1.5 billion, amid soaring optimism with the trading of bitcoin exchange traded funds.

Inflows so far this year hit $8 billion, far exceeding the record set for the whole of 2020 of $6.7 billion, according to data from a report released by digital asset manager CoinShares on Monday.

The bulk of inflows for the sixth straight week went to bitcoin, with $1.45 billion, data showed. Inflows year-to-date amounted to $6.1 billion.

With more than 250 expert speakers from the economic, business, education and corporate worlds, discussions at the FII, dubbed the “Davos in the Desert,” have centered on investments that aim to create the greatest benefits for humanity.

Solomon said there must be clarity regarding indicators of economic recovery and action plans, and this contributes to attracting investments and facilitating the movement of funds.

Guests attending the opening ceremony of the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

More broadly, he underscored the importance of supporting and investing in small businesses to ultimately bring growth and innovation to economies.

“One of the key solutions to drive economic participation and growth is support for small businesses and finding ways that we all can contribution to growth and innovation,” Solomon said.

BlackRock’s Fink said: “It is important to improve human and environmental conditions and to think about long-term solutions, and governments have a great burden.”

In his remarks, Al-Mubarak highlighted the importance of coming together to combat the challenge of climate change.

“The climate challenge will require everybody to contribute in their own way. Nobody is going to solve it on their own. We have to solve it together, working together globally as institutions, as governments, as civil society.”


NEOM's tech arm, OneWeb sign a $200m joint venture for high-speed satellite

NEOM's tech arm, OneWeb sign a $200m joint venture for high-speed satellite
Updated 27 October 2021

NEOM's tech arm, OneWeb sign a $200m joint venture for high-speed satellite

NEOM's tech arm, OneWeb sign a $200m joint venture for high-speed satellite

Riyadh: NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Co. – the first holding company to be established as a subsidiary of NEOM – and OneWeb, the global communications network powered from space, have signed a $200 million (SR750 million) joint venture agreement to bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and neighboring East African countries.

NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Co. and the new JV entity will have exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in its target regions for seven years from the initiation of the LEO satellite network, which is expected to commence in 2023.

The partnership will see the deployment of OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, which will not only provide the rapid and reliable connectivity to enable NEOM’s ecosystem of cognitive technologies, but also transform businesses and rural communities in the region where access to fiber-like internet was previously unimaginable, according to a statement.

The agreement also includes a long-term strategic partnership regarding research and development of future connectivity systems.

NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Co. and OneWeb, the second largest LEO operator with 358 satellites and the only licensed operator in Saudi Arabia, expect to complete ground infrastructure in 2022.