Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Terraform Labs staff banned from traveling; Metaverse standards body formed

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Terraform Labs staff banned from traveling; Metaverse standards body formed
Bitcoin traded lower on Wednesday (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 June 2022

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Terraform Labs staff banned from traveling; Metaverse standards body formed

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Terraform Labs staff banned from traveling; Metaverse standards body formed

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Wednesday, falling by 2:30 percent to $20,389.86 as of 9 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,093.61 falling by 4.84 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

No flying for crypto company Terraform Labs’ staff

According to Reuters, several employees of the company behind TerraUSD — the stablecoin that collapsed last month and roiled cryptocurrency markets — cannot leave the country.

Terraform Labs workers have been put on a no-fly list, according to a spokesperson at South Korea’s supreme prosecutor’s office. Further details would not be available until after the investigation was completed.

“We are not aware of the details of the reported ban,” Terraform Labs spokesperson said in a statement.

The stablecoin also contributed to difficulties for US-based crypto lender Celsius, which suspended withdrawals this month, and Singapore-based crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which has considered selling assets or a bailout.

Metaverse standards body formed without Apple by tech giants

Technology giants such as Microsoft, Meta, and others are collaborating to develop industry standards so their nascent digital worlds can be compatible, according to Reuters.

Among the participants in the Metaverse Standards Forum are chip makers, gaming companies, and established standards-setting bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium, the group announced on Tuesday.

Analysts expect Apple to become a dominant player in the metaverse race once it unveils a mixed reality headset this year or next year.

The Sandbox and Decentraland, crypto-based metaverse platforms like Roblox and Niantic, were also not included among the forum’s participants.

Despite giving its board a sneak peek of the headset, Apple has not yet publicly acknowledged plans for the device.

Such a device would put Apple in direct competition with Meta, which has invested heavily in hardware to make its vision of interconnected virtual worlds a reality.

The company, previously known as Facebook, announced plans to release a mixed-reality headset this year, code-named “Cambria.”

BlockFi signs $250 million revolving credit agreement with FTX

In a tweet, BlockFi’s CEO, Zac Prince, said the cryptocurrency firm had signed an agreement with digital asset exchange FTX for a SR938 million ($250 million) revolving credit facility, Reuters reported.

BlockFi will gain access to capital amid a rout in digital currency markets. As part of cost-cutting measures like reducing marketing spend and executive compensation, the company said it was reducing headcount by 20 percent last week.


Al-Jouf Agricultural profit jumps 203% as sales and margins rise in H1

Al-Jouf Agricultural profit jumps 203% as sales and margins rise in H1
Updated 16 sec ago

Al-Jouf Agricultural profit jumps 203% as sales and margins rise in H1

Al-Jouf Agricultural profit jumps 203% as sales and margins rise in H1

RIYADH: Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co. saw its profits jump 203 percent during the first half of 2022 driven by higher sales and profit margins.

The Saudi-listed company boosted its profit to SR22 million ($6 million) in the first half of this year, up from SR7 million for the same period a year ago, according to a bourse filing.

The company's revenue increased to SR124 million from SR117 million for the same period last year

In line with the profit, Al-Jouf Agricultural said it will distribute cash dividends of SR0.5 per share to shareholders for the first half of 2022.

Founded in 1988, Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co. is engaged in the production of strategic agricultural crops such as wheat, potatoes and onions.


TASI-listed GASCO sees 14% decline in H1 profits even as sales edge higher

TASI-listed GASCO sees 14% decline in H1 profits even as sales edge higher
Updated 37 min 36 sec ago

TASI-listed GASCO sees 14% decline in H1 profits even as sales edge higher

TASI-listed GASCO sees 14% decline in H1 profits even as sales edge higher

RIYADH: Saudi-listed National Gas and Industrialization Co. saw its profits drop 14 percent during the first half of 2022, despite higher sales.

Profits of the Riyadh-based gas firm reached SR105 million in the first half of 2022, down from SR122 million in the same period last year, according to a bourse filing.

This came despite an increase in revenue which reached SR989 million during the same period.

The company attributed the weak performance to a SR21 million decline in investments’ income and a decrease in investing fund revenues.


Oil Updates — Crude slips; US assistance in cleaning up oil spill-off in Louisiana; Oil depot fire in Cuba under control

Oil Updates — Crude slips; US assistance in cleaning up oil spill-off in Louisiana; Oil depot fire in Cuba under control
Updated 52 min 41 sec ago

Oil Updates — Crude slips; US assistance in cleaning up oil spill-off in Louisiana; Oil depot fire in Cuba under control

Oil Updates — Crude slips; US assistance in cleaning up oil spill-off in Louisiana; Oil depot fire in Cuba under control

RIYADH: Oil prices eased on Wednesday after industry data showed US crude inventories unexpectedly rose last week, signaling a potential hiccup in demand, though concerns over supply kept losses in check.

Brent crude futures fell 23 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $96.08 a barrel at 0323 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures declined 28 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $90.22 a barrel.

US Coast Guard vessels aid in cleanup of oil spill off Louisiana

The US Coast Guard on Tuesday said it has deployed three skimming vessels and five response vessels to help clean up a spill of thousands of gallons of oil spilled into Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana when a Hilcorp oil tank platform collapsed.

Hilcorp estimated that around 13,944 gallons of crude oil entered the water, the Coast Guard said, adding that there was no reported impact on wildlife.

The Coast Guard said it has deployed 6,200 feet of containment boom along with the vessels.

It said the platform was removed as of Aug. 8, and the exact cause of the spill remained under investigation.

“Automated systems ... secured the facility and alerted operators to the collapsed tank. The platform remains secured,” a US Coast Guard spokesperson said.

According to officials, the spill occurred nearly a week after 4,000 gallons of oil were dumped into a swamp near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the WCC Energy Group LLC was moving oil in a storage tank, the New York Daily News reported.

The Coast Guard was still overseeing the removal efforts of that spill.

Cuba brings oil depot fire under control

Firefighters on Tuesday finally overcame what officials described as the worst fire in Cuba’s history that over five days destroyed 40 percent of the Caribbean island’s main fuel storage facility and caused massive blackouts.

Reuters witnesses reported the raging flames that ravaged a four-tank segment of the Matanzas supertanker port had died down and the towering plumes of thick black smoke streaming from the area were diminished and now mostly gray.

Matanzas is Cuba’s largest port for receiving crude oil and fuel imports. Cuban heavy crude, as well as fuel oil and diesel stored in Matanzas in 10 huge tanks, are mainly used to generate electricity on the island.

Lightning struck one fuel storage tank on Friday evening. The fire spread to a second by Sunday and engulfed the four-tank area on Monday, accompanied by huge explosions and despite efforts by local firefighters supported by more than 100 Mexican and Venezuelan reinforcements.

Firefighter Rafael Perez Garriga told Reuters on the steaming outskirts of the disaster that he worries the fire would impact the power situation in the country.

“The situation is going to be more difficult. If the thermoelectric plants are supplied with that oil, we are going to have the whole world affected, it is electricity and it affects everything,” he said.

US oil refiners, pipeline companies expect strong demand 

US oil refiners and pipeline operators expect energy consumption to be strong for the second half of 2022, even though analysts and industry watchers have worried that demand could falter if the global economy enters a recession or high fuel prices deter travelers.

The company outlooks suggest a stronger view than recent data showing weakness in US fuel demand, particularly in gasoline, where consumption recently hit its lowest level since February even though this is the middle of the peak summer driving season.

US gasoline products supplied over the past four weeks recently fell below 2020’s level for the same time of year, when the US was in the depths of the pandemic.

Energy companies including Energy Transfer and PBF Energy say energy demand will be strong in the second half of 2022, according to a Reuters review of company earnings calls.

(With input from Reuters) 


Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9 billion, cites chance of forced Twitter deal

Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9 billion, cites chance of forced Twitter deal
(AFP/File)
Updated 10 August 2022

Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9 billion, cites chance of forced Twitter deal

Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9 billion, cites chance of forced Twitter deal

REUTERS: Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk sold $6.9 billion worth of shares in the electric vehicle maker, saying the funds could be used to finance a potential Twitter deal if he loses a legal battle with the social media platform.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” he said in a tweet late on Tuesday.

Musk in early July tore up his April 25 agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion.

Twitter has sued Musk to force him to complete the transaction, dismissing his claim that he was misled about the number of spam accounts on the social media platform as buyer’s remorse in the wake of a plunge in technology stocks.

The two sides head to trial on Oct. 17.

“Street will read through this poker move that chances of Twitter deal more likely now,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, tweeted.

In other comments on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said “yes” when asked if he was done selling Tesla stock, and also said he would buy Tesla stock again if the Twitter deal does not close.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Musk, the world’s richest person, sold $8.5 billion worth of Tesla shares in April and had said at the time there were no further sales planned. But since then, legal experts had suggested that if Musk is forced to complete the acquisition or settle the dispute with a stiff penalty, he was likely to sell more Tesla shares.

Musk sold about 7.92 million shares between Aug.5 and Aug.9, according to multiple filings. He now owns 155.04 million Tesla shares or just under 15 percent of the automaker according to Reuters calculations.

The latest sales bring total Tesla stock sales by Musk to about $32 billion in less than one year.

Tesla shares have risen nearly 15 percent since the automaker reported better-than-expected earnings on July 20, also helped by the Biden administration’s climate bill that, if passed, would lift the cap on tax credits for electric vehicles.

Musk also teased on Tuesday that he could start his own social media platform. When asked by a Twitter user if he had thought about creating his own platform if the deal didn’t close, he replied: “X.com”


Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound
Updated 10 August 2022

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound
  • Thanks to the favorable exchange rate, a £1 million home in London that would have cost $1.7 million in 2014 currently costs only about $1.2 million
  • Exchange rate forecasts predict sterling will strengthen against the dollar between now and 2026, suggesting that now is the perfect time for overseas buyers to take the plunge

LONDON: The declining strength of Sterling has created a window of opportunity in London for investors from the Middle East, according to property consultancy JLL.

Sterling buyers are paying 35 percent more now for London properties than they were eight years ago but those purchasing in US dollars are paying 3.8 percent less.

In June 2014, a US buyer would have had to pay $1.7 million for a £1 million property in London. The weaker pound means at the end of June this year, a £1 million property in the city would have cost only $1.2 million.

Exchange rate forecasts from Oxford Economics predict the pound will strengthen against the dollar between now and 2026, suggesting that this is the perfect time for overseas buyers to take advantage of the currency-exchange benefits that are available.

Analysis of passenger arrivals at London’s Heathrow Airport show that the number of visitors from the Middle East has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the number of passengers arriving from the region in May was 1 percent higher than the pre-pandemic average, and 2 percent higher in June.

“The weaker sterling, alongside the safe-haven status usually associated with UK real estate, is driving and will continue to drive investment here,” said JLL’s Alex Carr.

“This return of overseas demand at present is particularly apparent among purchasers from the Gulf states, who are traveling back here for the first time in two years.

“London has always, historically, been a safe haven for wealthy individuals from Gulf states who are looking to diversify their assets, being one of the most resilient and transparent property markets in the world.”

London’s upscale Kensington district reportedly has experienced a significant increase in inquiries and applications from buyers in the Middle East.

“It was evident in May that demand was building, with increased communications from prospective (Middle Eastern) buyers who were preparing for their return to the UK following two years of travel restrictions,” said JLL’s Thomas Middleditch.

“A lot of these individuals have kept in touch over the course of the pandemic to stay informed on the market, yet as most are tangible buyers they have waited until they are in a position to physically return to the UK before inquiring about specific properties.

“Kensington has always been popular among Middle Eastern buyers and considered a low-risk investment given its location and established address.”