Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum rise; NFT marketplace OpenSea cuts jobs

Update Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum rise; NFT marketplace OpenSea cuts jobs
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Updated 18 July 2022

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum rise; NFT marketplace OpenSea cuts jobs

Crypto Moves — Bitcoin and Ethereum rise; NFT marketplace OpenSea cuts jobs

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded higher on Monday, rising by 0.70 percent to $21,504.27 as of 8:30 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,432.34 rising by 5.41 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

Regulated digital currencies have benefits, say central bank chiefs

As long as the companies can be properly regulated, consumer-focused digital tokens issued by private companies could be better than central bank-issued tokens, the Australian central bank governor said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

“If these tokens are going to be used widely by the community they are going to need to be backed by the state, or regulated just as we regulate bank deposits,” said Philip Lowe.

“I tend to think that the private solution is going to be better — if we can get the regulatory arrangements right — because the private sector is better than the central bank at innovating and designing features for these tokens, and there are also likely to be very significant costs for the central bank setting up a digital token system,” he said.

Around the world, many central banks are developing digital currencies, either retail tokens for use directly by consumers or wholesale tokens for use by banks.

This is a response to the development of stablecoins such as Tether and USDC, which are commonly used for payment and as a store of value.

Decentralized finance projects, part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, could also be mitigated by greater scrutiny of such tokens, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief who spoke at the G20 finance officials meeting in Indonesia.

HKMA CEO Eddie Yue said more scrutiny of stablecoins could also help reduce risks from DeFi, which aims to replace financial intermediaries with computer code.

Celsius’ clients await news on their funds

After Celsius filed for bankruptcy in May, customers are anxiously waiting to find out about their money and whether they will ever get it back, according to Reuters.

In June, Celsius froze withdrawals citing extreme market conditions, triggering a $300 billion selloff in digital assets and severing the savings of legions of retail investors.

When Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York this week, it revealed a $1.2 billion hole in its balance sheet.

Reuters spoke with six lawyers specializing in bankruptcy, restructuring, and cryptocurrency to determine what will happen to customers’ money.

Lawyers say the Chapter 11 process will be slow due to limited bankruptcy precedents, multiple lawsuits against Celsius, and the high complexity of any restructuring.

Daniel Gwen at Ropes & Grey law firm in New York said that “this could last for years.”

“It’s highly likely there’s going to be a lot of litigation,” he added.

NFT marketplace OpenSea cuts 20 percent of jobs

OpenSea, a New York-based marketplace for non-fungible tokens, has cut 20 percent of its workforce amid a prolonged slump in digital asset markets, Reuters reported.

As Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies rose in popularity in 2021, the company’s sales grew.

Due to rising inflation, central bank rate hikes, and recession fears, the nascent NFT market has slumped in recent months.

CEO Devin Finzer said: “The reality is that we have entered an unprecedented combination of a crypto winter and broad macroeconomic instability, and we need to prepare the company for the possibility of a prolonged downturn.”

In June, OpenSea’s NFT sales volume fell to $700 million, down from $2.6 billion in May and well below the peak of nearly $5 billion in January.

Digital files such as images and texts are represented by NFTs, which are blockchain-based assets.

As a result of the job cuts, Finzer said the company would be able to maintain growth at current volumes for the next five years.

US crypto exchange Coinbase wins regulatory nod in Italy

Major US crypto exchange Coinbase has won approval from Italian regulators to continue to serve customers in Italy, it said in a blog on Monday.

Coinbase said it had met requirements from the Organismo Agenti e Mediatori, known as OAM, which oversees financial agents and credit brokers in Italy and implements anti-money laundering controls.

Financial watchdogs across the world are grappling with how to regulate the crypto market, which remains subject to patchy rules, according to Reuters. 

Consumer protection, threats to financial stability and illicit usage of digital coins are among the top issues on regulators’ agendas.

Under groundbreaking new rules agreed this month by the EU, crypto companies will need a license and customer safeguards to issue and sell digital tokens in the bloc.

The OAM says on its website it can collect and share with anti-mafia and anti-terrorism investigators in Italy data provided by crypto firms on their clients and operations.

Coinbase rival Binance, the world’s largest exchange, said in May it had registered with the OAM.

Paraguay Senate approves cryptocurrency bill

The Senate of Paraguay has approved a bill that seeks to regulate cryptocurrencies and their operations in the country.

The bill states that crypto mining companies will have to submit an energy consumption plan to the national energy administration, which will be able to cut power to these companies if they don’t follow it.

The cryptocurrency companies will also be exempt from paying value-added taxes but will have to pay income taxes, according to Bitcoin.com.

(With inputs from Reuters)


Closing Bell: TASI recovers from surging volatility to close at 10,444 points 

Closing Bell: TASI recovers from surging volatility to close at 10,444 points 
Updated 06 December 2022

Closing Bell: TASI recovers from surging volatility to close at 10,444 points 

Closing Bell: TASI recovers from surging volatility to close at 10,444 points 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index recovered on Tuesday after registering a massive fall on Monday, signaling the surging volatility in the market. 

The Tadawul All Share Index on Tuesday gained 25 points to close at 10,444.27 points after touching a low of 10,282.81 at 10:31 a.m. Saudi time. The recovery came close on the heels of the 304 points crash the bourse witnessed on Monday. 

The parallel market Nomu, however, could not match the pace with the TASI momentum and fell nearly 291 points to close at 18,506.03. 

The advance-decline ratio was pegged positively, with 109 stocks of the listed 219 heading north and 91 turning south. The total trading turnover was SR4.96 billion ($1.32 billion). 

According to market sources, investors were pessimistic about the Saudi market as they expected the earnings might not meet the historical growth it booked. 

The Saudi market is trading at a price-earnings ratio of 13.2x, which is relatively lower than its three-year average PE of 25.8x. 

On Tuesday, financial market tracker Argaam reported that shares of 39 Saudi-listed firms, including Saudi Telecom Co., Al Rajhi Bank and units of two real estate investment trust funds, hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks on Tuesday. 

The stocks that fell the most during this period included United Cooperative Assurance Co., which declined by 78 percent to SR7.6 and CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. by 58 percent to SR15.32. 

Other stocks included Malath Cooperative Insurance Co., which fell by 57 percent to SR10.88, Tabuk Agricultural Development Co. declined by 51 percent to SR51.3, while Red Sea International Co. dropped by 48 percent to SR23.18. 

On a positive note, however, information and communications technology firm Perfect Presentation for Commercial Services Co. on Tuesday announced a cash dividend of SR0.7 for the third quarter of the fiscal year, distributing a total of SR10.5 million. The company’s share closed 1.42 percent higher at SR156.70. 

The National Agricultural Development Co. also disclosed the launch of its strategic plan to the exchange, including expanding its leadership in dairy, juice, food, and agricultural products across new markets. The share price of the company tipped lower to touch SR22.76. 

The Saudi Exchange also celebrated the listing of AlRajhi Bank Tier 1 Sukuk. AlRajhi Bank is one of the world’s largest Islamic banks by market cap, with a strong presence in the Kingdom. 

“The addition of AlRajhi Bank Sukuk to the Saudi Exchange is another step toward diversifying the products available to local, regional and international investors, in line with our commitment to Vision 2030 and its Financial Sector Development Program,” said Mohammed Al-Rumaih, CEO of Saudi Exchange. 


SMEs in KSA jump 9.3% in Q3 driven by healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem 

SMEs in KSA jump 9.3% in Q3 driven by healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem 
Updated 06 December 2022

SMEs in KSA jump 9.3% in Q3 driven by healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem 

SMEs in KSA jump 9.3% in Q3 driven by healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem 

RIYADH:  The number of small and medium-sized enterprises in Saudi Arabia jumped 9.3 percent in the third quarter of 2022, driven by strong economic growth and a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Kingdom, according to latest government figures.  

A report released by the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, known as Monsha’at, showed the number of firms reached 978,445 in the three months to the end of September, up from 892,063 in the second quarter.  

The Monsha’at report pointed out that venture capital funding in Saudi Arabia in the first nine months of 2022 witnessed a 93 percent year-on-year increase totaling at SR3.1 billion ($820 million).  

According to Monsha’at, policy changes which have been implemented in the Kingdom since 2016 are one of the reasons behind the surge in the number of SMEs.  

“By increasing access to capital and offering and increased upskilling and specialized training to help people grow their businesses, entrepreneurial culture has taken root in the Kingdom,” said Monsha’at in the report.  

The report further noted that dedicated policies to invest in emerging technologies have also triggered innovation and job creation in the SME sector.  

Investments in the fintech sector were strong in the third quarter, with 22 deals signaling a 266 percent year-on-year rise, the report said.  

Renewable energy, tourism, and agricultural sectors are driving SME growth in the Al-Jouf province, with the province’s close proximity to the Jordanian market also spurring new business creation across multiple sectors.  

The report noted that initiatives and increased investments in the information and communication technology sector have also led to new SME growth in the Kingdom.  

“Monsha’at’s Thakaa Center is investing SR335 million to help over 90 tech startups and 250 SMEs integrate advanced technologies into their business,” the report added.  

The Monsha’at report for the third quarter came after Saudi Arabia’s National Development Fund announced the start of operations at the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank, aimed at bridging the finance gap in the SME sector.  

The launch of the new bank is expected to help the SME sector contribute as much as 35 percent to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. 

Some other goals Monsha’at is trying to materialize by 2030 include lowering the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent and increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.  


Global renewable capacity to double over next 5 years as energy crisis deepens: IEA

Global renewable capacity to double over next 5 years as energy crisis deepens: IEA
Updated 06 December 2022

Global renewable capacity to double over next 5 years as energy crisis deepens: IEA

Global renewable capacity to double over next 5 years as energy crisis deepens: IEA

RIYADH: Global renewable power capacity is expected to double over the next five years primarily driven by energy security concerns caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the International Energy Agency. 

In its annual report on the outlook of renewables, the organization noted that the capacity of renewables globally is expected to grow by 2,400 gigawatts over the 2022-2027 period, an amount equal to the entire power capacity of China today. 

“Renewables were already expanding quickly, but the global energy crisis has kicked them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth as countries seek to capitalize on their energy security benefits. The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the previous 20 years,” said the IEA's executive director Fatih Birol. 

According to IEA, this massive rise in the renewables sector is 30 percent higher than the amount of growth that was forecast just a year ago, which indicates the fact that governments all across the world are quickly embracing sustainable energy measures for a better future. 

The report further pointed out that renewables are set to account for over 90 percent of global electricity expansion over the next five years, overtaking coal to become the largest source of global power by early 2025.

Birol added: “This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system. Renewables’ continued acceleration is critical to help keep the door open to limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.”

The report added that global solar photovoltaic capacity is expected to almost triple by 2027, becoming the largest source of power capacity in the world, while wind capacity is set to double in the same period. 

The IEA also noted that global biofuel demand is set to expand by 22 percent over the 2022-2027 period. 

“Together, wind and solar will account for over 90 percent of the renewable power capacity that is added over the next five years,” the IEA added. 

According to the report, Europe is leading the energy transition from the front as EU nations are looking to rapidly replace Russian gas with alternatives post the conflict in Ukraine. 

The report added that countries like China, US and India are implementing policies and introducing regulatory and market reforms to combat a possible energy crisis.


Veolia and Emirates Waste to Energy form JV to operate region’s first waste-to-energy plant

Veolia and Emirates Waste to Energy form JV to operate region’s first waste-to-energy plant
Updated 06 December 2022

Veolia and Emirates Waste to Energy form JV to operate region’s first waste-to-energy plant

Veolia and Emirates Waste to Energy form JV to operate region’s first waste-to-energy plant

RIYADH: Environmental management firm Veolia Near & Middle East has joined forces with Emirates Waste to Energy to operate and maintain the Sharjah waste-to-energy plant, touted to be the first in the region.

A joint venture between Sharjah environmental management company Beeah and Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar, Emirates Waste to Energy can process 300,000 tons of municipal waste every year along with producing 30 megawatts of low carbon energy — sufficient enough to power up to 28,000 homes and offset up to 450,000 tons of CO2 emissions per annum, according to a press release.

Sharjah currently has a 76 percent landfill waste diversion rate and upon completion of this project it will enable that to be increased to 100 percent, thus making Sharjah the first zero waste-to-landfill cities in the Middle East.

“As part of our efforts to promote ecological transformation, Veolia is dedicated to diverting domestic waste away from landfill and to supporting the UAE’s push for green energy. This project helps achieve both goals, while being aligned with the UAE’s ambitious environmental vision,” said Pascal Grante, CEO of Veolia Near & Middle East.

Khaled Al-Huraimel, Group CEO of BEEAH Group, said the new venture with Veolia and Masdar is “another exciting development in our mission to shape a zero waste to landfill, net-zero emissions future in Sharjah and the UAE.”

He added: “Over the next 25 years, we will continue to build on our integrated waste management and zero waste-to-landfill ecosystem through the Sharjah Waste to Energy Plant.”

The waste management complex in the plant will recover a majority of the recyclable material from the waste it processes. Later, the remaining waste will be thermally treated, and the heat produced from the process will be applied to a boiler, which will produce steam and drive a turbine to produce electricity, the press release noted.

Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, CEO of Masdar said: “We will work together to ensure the smooth operation and maintenance of the region’s first commercial-scale waste-to-energy facility, supporting Sharjah and the UAE in achieving their zero-waste and net-zero ambitions.”


Saudi-Vietnamese trade ties boosted by Riyadh forum

Saudi-Vietnamese trade ties boosted by Riyadh forum
Updated 06 December 2022

Saudi-Vietnamese trade ties boosted by Riyadh forum

Saudi-Vietnamese trade ties boosted by Riyadh forum

RIYADH: Saudi and Vietnamese business leaders from more than 40 companies met in Riyadh to discuss ways to increase their already flourishing health trade exchange volume, which stands at SR8.2 billion ($2.2bn).

The Saudi-Vietnamese Business Forum, held at the Federation of Saudi Chambers, saw the representatives of 21 Saudi companies and 20 from Vietnam discussing how to benefit from the opportunities provided by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Vice-chairman of the Saudi Regional Business Council for Southeast Asian Countries Abdulghani Al-Rumaih praised the Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee and its reflection on the volume of trade exchange, which amounted to about SR8.2 billion in 2021, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Saudi Arabia is a major market for the South-East Asian country and one of Vietnam’s important partners in the Middle East and Africa region. 

The Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee was launched in 2006 and it aims to discuss ways of cooperation in many areas that contribute to the development of the two countries.

Vietnam is among the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, with an average gross domestic product growth of between 6 and 7 percent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting comes in line with recent efforts by Saudi Arabia to increase linkages with international markets through establishing new bilateral organizations, as well as holding forums and meetings with countries including Finland, India, Uzbekistan, Thailand, France, Indonesia and Spain.

Speaking to Arab News earlier this year, Saad Al-Shahrani, the acting deputy minister for investment promotion in the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia, said the Kingdom achieved an 18 percent increase in foreign direct investment in 2020, even as the global FDI declined by 35 percent due to the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has enacted over 600 economic reforms since the launch of the Vision 2030 blueprint in a bid to attract SR12.4 trillion of cumulative investment and SR1.8 trillion in foreign direct investment inflows between 2021 and 2030 as part of the National Investment Strategy.