End of Facebook’s cryptocurrency dreams points to challenges for stablecoins

End of Facebook’s cryptocurrency dreams points to challenges for stablecoins
Facebook first unveiled plans for Diem, known as Libra earlier, in June 2019. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 28 January 2022

End of Facebook’s cryptocurrency dreams points to challenges for stablecoins

End of Facebook’s cryptocurrency dreams points to challenges for stablecoins
  • Facebook is said to be planning to sell the technical assets of Diem after facing regulatory pushback

LONDON: Facebook is said to be winding down its cryptocurrency project Diem and preparing to sell its assets following regulatory pushback in the US

The Diem Association, launched by Facebook in 2019 and supported by 25 businesses, will sell its technology to California-based Silvergate Bank for $200 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the discussions.

Originally named Libra, the crypto coin was initially planned to be backed by a basket of currencies, but under pressure from regulators narrowed its ambition to assuming the status of a stablecoin, backed one-to-one by US dollars.

Similar products already exist in the form of other stablecoins, such as Tether, Dai, Binance USD and USD Coin.

They are braced for action from regulators, who have shown an increasing interest in stablecoins and other crypto assets of late. Facebook’s failure to launch a preapproved coin does not bode well for them.

A report in November from the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency called for urgent legislative action to limit the issuance of stablecoins to insured depository institutions and to enable their regulation.

They are most concerned about their ability to destabilize the financial system if there is a sudden run on withdrawals. The market for stablecoins is growing rapidly — up to nearly $130 billion as of the end of October from closer to $23 billion at the same time last year.

Stablecoins are mainly used in transactions involving other digital currencies, but they have the potential to be used in retail transactions as companies like Visa explore services relating to them.

However, there are reasons to believe stablecoins will not meet the same fate as Diem, which faced some unique challenges.

Because of Facebook’s size – it has about 2.9 billion users – it was always going to face greater scrutiny than rival products. It was liaising with regulators during a period of numerous scandals, including the Cambridge Analytica privacy row, which meant trust in the social media pioneer was historically low.

Diem hired former HSBC legal chief Stuart Levey as its first CEO and, in May last year, moved its headquarters from Switzerland to the US in an attempt to placate regulators. But the writing was on the wall when founder David Marcus left the company at the end of 2021.

However, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has not given up all its crypto ambitions. It built a digital currency wallet, called Novi, and released it as a small pilot in October. Novi is central to its plans to pivot toward projects related to allowing its users to buy and sell non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, which became a $40 billion market in 2021.

Don’t expect this to be the end of Meta’s crypto ambitions.

On the markets today, Bitcoin was down 0.6 percent to $36,379, while Ethereum declined 2.9 percent to $2,379.

However, outflows of $670 million of Bitcoin from centralized exchanges is a bullish sign for the largest cryptocurrency, according to CoinDesk. Most investors prefer to have direct custody of coins when they intend to hold them for the longer term, it said.


Global business leaders gather as the Top CEO forum kicks off in Dubai 

Global business leaders gather as the Top CEO forum kicks off in Dubai 
Updated 14 sec ago

Global business leaders gather as the Top CEO forum kicks off in Dubai 

Global business leaders gather as the Top CEO forum kicks off in Dubai 

DUBAI: Business leaders from across the world gather as the Top CEO forum kicks off in Dubai, after a successful day one that saw leading Arab businesswomen and industry stalwarts discuss business and challenges and the role of women in driving the global economy.   

Today’s event is set to be dominated by a wide-ranging topic, right from how the businesses should go about beating inflation post-pandemic, deal with their initial public offering plans, and raising capital to how the special purpose acquisition companies operate in this changing environment. The other topics to lead the discussion today include digitization, blockchain and metaverse. 


Bank of England official warns of tough times for crypto

Bank of England official warns of tough times for crypto
Updated 17 May 2022

Bank of England official warns of tough times for crypto

Bank of England official warns of tough times for crypto
  • G7 to discuss crypto-asset regulation, says French central banker

RIYADH: Investors in crypto currencies should expect more difficult times ahead as tightening financial conditions around the world stoke appetite for safer assets, Bank of England Deputy Gov. Jon Cunliffe said on Tuesday.

Asked at a Wall Street Journal conference if rising interest rates would ramp up pressure on crypto currencies, Cunliffe said: “Yes, I think as this process continues, as (quantitative tightening) starts in the US ... I think we’ll see a move out of risky assets.” Cunliffe added that the conflict in Ukraine also had the potential to cause a renewed flight to safer assets.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, fell as low as $25,401 on Thursday, its lowest since Dec. 2020. It hit a record high of $69,000 in November. 

However, it traded higher on Tuesday, up 0.2 percent to $30,418 as of 08:52 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $2,077, up 0.32 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.

G7 meeting

The regulation of crypto-assets is likely to be discussed at a meeting of Group of Seven finance chiefs this week in Germany, French central bank head Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Tuesday.

“What happened in the recent past is a wake-up call for the urgent need for global regulation,” Villeroy told an emerging markets conference in Paris, referring to recent turbulence in crypto-asset markets.

“Europe paved the way with MICA (regulatory framework for crypto-assets), we will probably ... discuss these issues among many others at the G7 meeting in Germany this week,” he added.

Grayscale to launch digital assets

Grayscale will list an exchange-traded fund in Europe made up of companies representing the “Future of Finance,” the world’s largest cryptocurrency asset manager said in a statement on Monday. 

The ETF, tracking the “Bloomberg Grayscale Future of Finance Index,” will be listed on the London Stock Exchange, Italy’s Borsa Italiana and Germany’s Deutsche Börse Xetra and begin trading on May 17. It is the first time that US-based Grayscale has listed a fund in Europe.

The index contains a mixture of companies involved in digital currencies including asset managers, exchanges, brokers, technology firms, as well as firms directly involved in cryptocurrency mining. “For us, the digital economy is primarily being driven through the proliferation of digital assets,” said Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein.


Digital transformation, women participation are the need of the hour, says VP Visa CEMEA

Digital transformation, women participation are the need of the hour, says VP Visa CEMEA
Updated 18 May 2022

Digital transformation, women participation are the need of the hour, says VP Visa CEMEA

Digital transformation, women participation are the need of the hour, says VP Visa CEMEA

RIYADH: In a post-pandemic world, digital transformation has been one of the main changes for companies and economies as a whole.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum in Dubai, Visa CEMEA Vice President of Marketing Christine Harb emphasized the need for digital transformation and women’s representation.

“I believe that digital transformation is done in multiple phases. There are pretty traditional organizations in the way they operate and are trying to move into a more agile space,” she said.

Harb added: “When you look at how digital is transforming the world and the metaverse impacting on organizations, there is a need to rethink how people collaborate and engage. So it’s not just about making sure that you have the right tools or enabling employees and people to connect.”

She explained that the shift is not only in digitizing the economy but also in how women’s representation has been a focus for organizations and educational spheres.

“Now, we are already equipped. So maybe we are on the right track. But, still, a lot needs to be done, mainly around policies and regulations that would protect women and open new doors to them, when it comes to, you know, bigger roles, but also allowing them to be their authentic selves,” she concluded.


Commercial Bank of Kuwait plans to digitize, says CEO

Commercial Bank of Kuwait plans to digitize, says CEO
Updated 18 May 2022

Commercial Bank of Kuwait plans to digitize, says CEO

Commercial Bank of Kuwait plans to digitize, says CEO

DUBAI: Elham Mahfouz, the chief executive officer of the Commercial Bank of Kuwait, said that robots will play a major role in the future, with 85 million jobs expected to be taken over in the next two to three years.

Speaking to Arab News at the Arab Women Forum, Mahfouz said that the bank’s next plan is digitization and that, in the next two to three years, the look of banks will be different.

CBK is the only bank to have SwatchPAY, which is a smart-watch payment service, she informed.

Beginning her journey in banking around 35 years ago, Mahfouz climbed up the ladder after starting as a credit analyst. She has been the CEO of the bank for the last eight years, she informed.

“Being in a high position can favor the institution if you want to implement certain kinds of dreams that you have to get the institution in a certain way and pave the way with the team,” she added.

Mahfouz told Arab News that one of the things that stood out to her as a woman working in the banking sector was getting more support from males than females.

Self-development, focus, and patience are factors that have influenced her journey to reaching the top post, Mahfouz said.

She added that the following generations are tech-savvy and are very smart when it comes to technological advances. However, Mahfouz said they have to have patience and read more.


Women should not relinquish their rights in business, says Suzy Kanoo

Women should not relinquish their rights in business, says Suzy Kanoo
Updated 18 May 2022

Women should not relinquish their rights in business, says Suzy Kanoo

Women should not relinquish their rights in business, says Suzy Kanoo

DUBAI: When it comes to taking a huge step like running a family business, most entrepreneurs would flinch, especially in a male-dominated industry. Female successors would instead pass their rights to a male than take the path of leadership.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the CEO and president of Khalil bin Ebrahim Kanoo Co. and International Motor Trading Agency, Suzy Kanoo, shared her advice on what women should do when put in that position, and it’s not relinquishing their rights.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum event in Dubai, Kanoo, who has also authored “Hear Us Speak: Letters from Arab Women,” expressed that one of the main obstacles women face in the business world is not believing in themselves.

“The Japanese call it Ikigai. Find a purpose and passion, do it well, and make sure it benefits society. Whatever it is, anything that you think is insignificant isn’t insignificant for that individual. So, find that purpose and do it well,” she added.

Kanoo has been the voice of the Arab world, and her book discusses real-life stories about Arab women that have experienced physical or emotional abuse but outlived their circumstances.

“My book emphasizes that never let a male, whether a cousin or a brother, force you or coerce you into signing documents asking you to relinquish your rights of the family business,” she said.

Her book brought to light the circumstances of the marginalized women who succumbed to male domination and gave away what was rightfully theirs.

However, Kanoo feels those were different times. She finds Gen Z is the most empowered generation. They believe that nothing should stop them from achieving their goals. In addition, they understand technology better than the previous generations.

But the struggle is not over. Even emancipated women have to fight on multiple fronts. An accomplished writer and businesswoman, Kanoo is currently facing problems with the automotive business. Her production declined by 50-60 percent.

Does that mean she is letting off the reins? No chance. The feisty lady is expanding into different sectors, opening a restaurant from personal investments and launching an advisory company for blockchain technology.