Bitcoin headed for weekly drop amid exchange crackdown

Bitcoin headed for weekly drop amid exchange crackdown
Bitcoin was trading little changed on Friday, but headed for a weekly decline. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 16 July 2021

Bitcoin headed for weekly drop amid exchange crackdown

Bitcoin headed for weekly drop amid exchange crackdown
  • Bitcoin trading 5 percent lower in the week
  • Italy joins global crackdown on crypto platform Binance

LONDON: Bitcoin was set for a weekly decline as regulators continued a global crackdown on cryptocurrency exchange Binance and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speculated that central bank digital currencies may make cryptocurrencies less useful.

Bitcoin was trading little changed at $31,783 at 1:14 p.m. GMT on Friday, after experiencing its biggest slide in 10 days on Thursday. The world’s most traded cryptocurrency was 5 percent lower in the week.

Binance is not authorized to carry out activities in Italy, the country’s market watchdog said on Thursday, joining a string of global regulatory moves against the cryptocurrency exchange.

It is unclear whether the regulator had requested that local Internet companies block Binance’s website, or whether it has referred the case to magistrates. A Binance spokesperson said its website did not operate out of Italy and that the Consob notice had no direct impact on its services. He declined to comment on the letter.

Scrutiny of the cryptocurrency sector is growing across the world, with regulators worried over consumer protection and the use of digital coins for money laundering and other criminal activities.

Britain’s financial watchdog last month barred Binance — one of the world’s biggest exchanges — from carrying out regulated activities in the UK. Watchdogs in Thailand, Japan, Germany and the United States have also targeted the platform.

Binance was last month the world’s biggest exchange by spot trading volumes, data from CryptoCompare showed, with trading volumes in June at $668 billion — a near 10-fold jump from July 2020.

It offers a wide range of services to users across the globe, from crypto spot to derivatives trading. However, on Friday, it said it had stopped selling stock tokens — digital versions of equities — as Hong Kong's regulator moved against trade in the tokens.

Fed vs. stabelcoins

Fed Chair Powell on Wednesday said one of the stronger arguments for the US central bank to set up a digital currency is that it could undercut the need for private alternatives such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins.

Asked during a congressional hearing if having a digital currency issued by the Fed would be a more viable alternative than having multiple cryptocurrencies or stablecoins emerge in the payments system, Powell said he agreed. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that attempts to peg its value to a conventional currency such as the US dollar.

“I think that may be the case and I think that’s one of the arguments that are offered in favor of digital currency,” Powell said during a hearing before the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. “That, in particular, you wouldn’t need stablecoins, you wouldn’t need cryptocurrencies if you had a digital US currency — I think that’s one of the stronger arguments in its favor.”

Fed officials will be broadly examining the digital payments universe in a discussion paper that could be released in early September, Powell said. He described it as a key step that accelerates the Fed’s efforts to determine if it should issue a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.

Digital euro

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the European Central Bank formally launched a pilot project to create a “digital euro”.

“Our work aims to ensure that in the digital age citizens and firms continue to have access to the safest form of money, central bank money,” ECB president Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

The initial “investigation phase” is to last two years and will focus on the digital euro’s design and distribution options, before a final decision is taken on whether to proceed.

A digital euro would be an electronic version of euro coins and banknotes held in a digital wallet, potentially allowing eurozone citizens for the first time to have accounts directly with the ECB.

A key challenge will be to balance privacy demands with anti-money laundering regulations, with experts saying it’s unlikely a digital euro can offer the same kind of anonymity as cash.

To avoid taking business away from commercial banks, ECB executive board member Fabio Panetta told reporters the amount of e-euros individuals can hold in their digital wallets could be capped, for example at around 3,000 euros ($3,500).


Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023
Updated 23 September 2021

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023

Camera maker Canon reveals 30% Saudi women employees target by 2023
  • It has launched a “Women in Sales” internship program to further support the 2023 target

DUBAI: The Saudi Arabia unit of global camera maker Canon wants 30 percent of its employees to be Saudi women by the end of 2023. 

The move is in line with national efforts to integrate more women into the Kingdom’s workforce.

Canon said it has been working towards this target since 2018, when it first opened offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al-Khobar, but has now made the goal public.

It has previously teamed up with King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah to develop technology-enabled training, which the camera maker said was proof of its “commitment to support young talent” in the Kingdom. 

The company partnered with Mohammed Al-Mana College for Medical Sciences to fund one female student’s school expenses, including tuition and housing.

It has also launched a “Women in Sales” internship program to further support the 2023 target. 


China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 23 September 2021

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ

China preparing for Evergrande's downfall: WSJ
  • Local governments have been ordered to assemble groups of accountants and legal experts to examine the finances around Evergrande's operations in their respective regions
  • Both bonds would default if Evergrande fails to settle the interest within 30 days of the scheduled payment dates

Chinese authorities are asking local governments to prepare for the potential downfall of debt-ridden China Evergrande Group, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing officials familiar with the discussion.

The move has been characterised as "getting ready for the possible storm" by the officials, according to the report.


The officials said local-level government agencies and state-owned enterprises have been instructed to step in only at the last minute should Evergrande fail to manage its affairs in an orderly fashion, the WSJ reported.


Local governments have been tasked with preventing unrest and mitigating the ripple effect on home buyers and the broader economy, the officials said, according to the report.


Evergrande, China's second-biggest property developer, has $83.5 million in dollar-bond interest payments due on Thursday on a $2 billion offshore bond and a $47.5 million dollar-bond interest payment due next week.


Both bonds would default if Evergrande fails to settle the interest within 30 days of the scheduled payment dates.


The company, which epitomised the borrow-to-build business model, ran into trouble over the past few months as Beijing tightened rules in its property sector to rein back debt levels and speculation.


Investors are worried that a downfall could spread to creditors including banks in China and abroad.

 


Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh
Updated 23 September 2021

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh

Luxury operator Chalhoub opens new retail hub in Riyadh
  • The new retail development, called “Concept by MUSE”, will bring in local, regional, and international brands, particularly catering to the Saudi youth

DUBAI: Luxury retail operator Chalhoub Group has launched a new shopping destination at the Riyadh Park in the Saudi capital, in a new sign of recovery in the Kingdom’s retail sector post-pandemic. 

The new retail development, called “Concept by MUSE”, will bring in local, regional, and international brands, particularly catering to the Saudi youth, the group said in a statement.

“The retail landscape in Saudi Arabia has evolved significantly over the last few years, especially as young customers become increasingly discerning and attentive to global shopping trends while staying true to their roots and culture,” David Vercruysse, president of managed companies at Chalhoub, said.

Over 1,200 products will be featured at the mall, including the work of five Saudi designers Noms Life, Proud Angeles, Dania Shinkar, Cones and Rods, and Kaf By Kaf.

It follows an earlier initiative of the group to support local Saudi designers by giving them financial grants to build their own fashion brands.

The Kingdom has announced several efforts to modernize its economy, including boosting its local retail market. 

“This world’s first demonstrates our commitment to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and support to the country’s ambitions to make Saudi a world-class retail destination,” Bachar Sabbagh, the Saudi director of Chalhoub, said. 


Apicorp launches first green bond framework

Apicorp launches first green bond framework
Updated 23 September 2021

Apicorp launches first green bond framework

Apicorp launches first green bond framework
  • The framework will be used to raise green bonds/sukuk for projects aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

DUBAI: The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp) has launched its first green bond framework.

It follows the recent approval of the OPEC-created financial institution’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policy framework, as it aims to develop the sustainable financial market. 

The framework will be used to raise green bonds/sukuk for projects aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals - addressing issues in climate mitigation, circular economy, and biodiversity preservation among others. 

It was created in line with the International Capital Market Association’s Green Bond Principles 2021.

“By launching the Green Bond Framework, Apicorp is providing new avenues for investment in projects and ventures that further the development of safe, affordable, and renewable energy sources,” Ahmed Ali Attiga, chief executive officer of Apicorp. 

He said the framework “reflects our deep understanding of the ESG impact of our investments across the energy spectrum and our commitment to setting out new engagement strategies with our stakeholders to spread awareness of their ESG exposure.”

Apircorp earlier said it will allocate $1 billion towards green energy projects and sustainable energy companies over the next two years. 


Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 23 September 2021

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private

Dubai's DAMAC Properties receives approval to take firm private
  • The Dubai real-estate company still plans to offer $595 million for outstanding shares of the company
  • The firm has a market capitalization of over $2 billion

DAMAC Properties, known for its deals with former President Donald Trump said Thursday it had received regulator approval for an effort to take the firm private.


The Dubai real-estate company still plans to offer $595 million for outstanding shares of the company, the firm said in a filing on Dubai Financial Market stock exchange.


It said it would offer an update on the plan in the coming weeks. It earlier announced plans in June for the offer to take the company private, then withdrew them as regulators examined the plan.


The buyout would be through Maple Invest Co. Ltd., a holding company of DAMAC's billionaire founder Hussain Sajwani. Sajwani owns nearly four-fifths of the company through various investment firms.


DAMAC stock traded up Thursday over 3 percent on the news. The firm has a market capitalization of over $2 billion.


DAMAC is known in Dubai for a development that features a Trump-branded golf club surrounded by villas and apartments, making it the only one of its kind in the Middle East that bears the Trump logo.


The company’s partnership with the Trump Organization to manage and run the golf course was struck before Trump’s election as U.S. president.