Bill Gates’ Investment Firm Buys Controlling Stake In Four Seasons Hotels For $2.2 Billion

Bill Gates will purchase a majority stake in the Four Seasons hotel chain for $2.21 billion, the company announced Wednesday.

Cascade Investment LLC, which manages the Microsoft cofounder’s massive fortune, agreed to buy half of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s stake in the hotel chain. The all-cash deal pushes Gates’ ownership from 47.5% to 71.25% and values the Four Seasons at $10 billion in enterprise value. The deal is expected to close in January 2022.

The purchase is a bet by Gates in part on the rebound of high-end business travel to big cities, which has suffered a blow during the pandemic. At least two Four Seasons hotels —including the one in midtown Manhattan— are currently closed; the midtown Manhattan location, which is owned by Beanie Baby’s billionaire founder Ty Warner, is “undergoing substantial infrastructure and maintenance work,” according to a note on its website.

However, one industry insider told Forbes that luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons lose money unless they operate at very high occupancy rates. In a statement, the hotel operator said the deal “marks a pivotal point in the evolution of Four Seasons” and affirms Cascade’s commitment to provide the Four Seasons “with resources to accelerate growth and expand its strategic goals.”

Through his investment vehicle Kingdom Holding Co., Prince Alwaleed will hold onto his remaining 23.75% stake. Forbes long counted the Saudi Prince as a billionaire — and one of the richest people in the world, but removed him from the Forbes billionaires list after November 2017, when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman kept Alwaleed and other princes and business leaders captive in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh and reportedly extracted billions of dollars from them.

Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons Founder and Chairman, will also retain his 5% stake through Triples Holdings Limited, the company said. Bill Gates is currently ranked by Forbes as the fifth richest person in the world, worth an estimated $132.8 billion fortune.

In addition to its Four Seasons investment, Cascade is the largest private owner of farmland in the U.S. Gates’ investment firm also owns stakes in car dealership AutoNation, farm equipment manufacturer John Deere and other stocks.

Kingdom will retain 23.75%. Four Seasons Founder and Chairman Isadore Sharp, through Triples Holdings Limited, will keep his 5% stake. Cascade first invested in Four Seasons in 1997. It was public at that time, but the company went private in 2007. Founded in 1960, Four Seasons manages 121 hotels and resorts and 46 residential properties in 47 countries. It also has more than 50 projects at various stages of development.

“As we mark our 60th anniversary and look back on the profound impact that Four Seasons has had on luxury hospitality we also look forward with tremendous excitement and confidence in the future of the industry,” Four Seasons CEO John Davison said in a statement. “The unwavering support and partnership of our shareholders has been and continues to be critical as we capitalize on growing opportunities to serve luxury consumers worldwide.”

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Source: Bill Gates’ Investment Firm Buys Controlling Stake In Four Seasons Hotels For $2.2 Billion

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Cryptocurrencies Are Coming Back From the Brink. Here’s Why

After months languishing in the doldrums, cryptocurrencies are surging. On Monday, Bitcoin breached the $50,000 mark for the first time since May. Other coins — including Ethereum, Cardano’s ADA and Dogecoin — also edged higher.

And it was only a few weeks ago that some strategists were eyeing a possible drop to $20,000 for Bitcoin, months after it had hit an all-time high near $65,000 in April.

Instead, sentiment is rising across the board. Crypto’s latest swings are a sign that Bitcoin miners are back in business after a recent Chinese crackdown. At the same time, there is continued evidence of more mainstream acceptance. All of this is happening as the delta variant’s surge has muddied the timeline for a normalization of interest rate policy.

“There’s been an accelerating background of accumulation of crypto assets in the past couple months,” Jonathan Cheesman, head of over-the-counter and institutional sales at crypto derivatives exchange FTX, wrote in an email Monday. “Institutional flows in Bitcoin and Ether as well as a lot of retail activity in NFTs and gaming” are likely contributing, he added.

Here is a look at what is driving the increase — and what could come next:

A Shift in Sentiment

The cryptocurrency world is populated by a cast of characters whose voices can really influence prices. Lately, bullish noises have been boosting sentiment.

Take Elon Musk. Earlier this year, the billionaire caused heads to spin — and helped prices to boost and then plummet — when he said in March that Tesla Inc. would accept payment for its electric vehicles in Bitcoin but backtracked in May. He made his reversal on environmental grounds, expressing concern about the use of fossil fuels for cryptocurrency mining. Following those comments, Bitcoin lost about a quarter of its value in a week.

But here’s the latest twist: Over the past few weeks, Musk has been striking a more supportive tone. In late July he said he personally owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin and would like to see crypto succeed.

Superstar investment manager Cathie Wood is another influential voice in this space. A noted crypto bull, she told Bloomberg TV in May that she could see Bitcoin reaching a price of $500,000. More recently, she said she thinks corporations should consider adding Bitcoin to their balance sheets.

Hash Rate Signals

About a month ago, all the talk in the cryptocurrency world was of a Chinese crackdown. A ban on Bitcoin mining meant the abrupt shuttering of millions of computers that had been processing the transactions necessary to keep the crypto currency humming. Before the ban, around 65% of the world’s Bitcoin mining took place in China.

As computers went offline, the hash rate — a measure of the computing power used in mining and processing — halved in just two and half weeks.

As well as the practical implications, the aggressive moves by China laid bare the fact that the decentralized currency is still at the mercy of governments, which hit sentiment. Bobby Lee, one of the country’s first Bitcoin moguls, even said that China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies will probably intensify and may even lead to an outright ban on holding the tokens. And in the U.S., a recent congressional debate over crypto rules added to the uncertainty.

However, the hash rate has rebounded and is up from its July nadir, according to data from Blockchain.com.

That recovery has helped restore confidence in the market that cryptocurrencies can flourish even in the face of opposition from legislators around the world.

Keep Your Eye on Jackson Hole

Prices of cryptocurrencies, like gold, tend to suffer when there is the prospect of interest rate hikes. The emergence of Covid’s delta variant may scramble plans to remove crisis-level monetary policy.

If Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell were to strike a dovish note in his speech at the Jackson Hole conference this Friday, that could boost the currency, Oanda analyst Edward Moya said in a note.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve’s annual event, being held virtually again, is traditionally scrutinized for hints on upcoming changes in stance. Some Fed leaders have used it as a platform to explain new initiatives, as Powell did last year in unveiling a new monetary policy framework.

Even More Mainstream — and Main Street — Interest

Huge financial and consumer firms over the past year have increasingly been embracing crypto, giving the asset more legitimacy and driving up the price. Banks, brokerages and securities exchanges have been gearing up to meet demand. A watershed moment came in April with the U.S. stock market debut of Coinbase Global Inc., a crypto trading venue that’s shooting to establish a digital-money ecosystem.

This summer, there has been growing speculation that Amazon.com Inc. may become involved in the cryptocurrency sector. An Amazon job posting published online in July said the firm was seeking a “Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Lead.” After people found out about the post, Bitcoin surged to about $40,000. Amazon shares gained about 1% in New York. The company went on to say that the “speculation” about its “specific plan for cryptocurrencies is not true,” but the fact that the world’s largest retailer is exploring crypto has big implications for the shadowy and often hard-to-access market.

Walmart Inc. revealed it, too, was looking for some crypto help, with a job posting on Aug. 15 with responsibilities that would include “developing the digital currency strategy and product roadmap” and identifying “crypto-related investment and partnerships.” (As of Monday morning, visitors to the website were given a 404 error message.)

So… Where to From Here?

In these final days of summer, it’s now back in vogue to make $100,000 predictions.

As with any investment — or anything, really — it’s impossible to predict the future. But analysts do have a few estimations on how breaching $50,000 has changed Bitcoin’s prospects, at least in the short term.

Bitcoin is “getting nearer the higher end of what I expect as a new trading range in the low-$40,000s to low-$50,000s,” said Rick Bensignor, chief executive officer at Bensignor Investment Strategies.

Daniela Hathorn, an analyst at DailyFx.com, thinks that it may be a while before we see any further bullish momentum because $50,000 is a key psychological level for the currency.

“A pullback towards the $48,000 area would be the first sign of trouble,” she wrote in a note on Monday. “But the positive trend isn’t in any trouble as long as Bitcoin stays above its 200-day moving average at $45,750. Looking ahead, the key challenge for buyers will be to cement further gains towards $55,000 without losing momentum along the way.”

By: Emily Cadman / Charlie Wells / Joanna Ossinger

Source: https://www.bloombergquint.com/wealth/bitcoin-price-surge-reasons-why-ethereum-cryptocurrencies-are-rising
Copyright © BloombergQuint

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Bitcoin ‘Ought to Be Outlawed,’ Nobel Prize Winner Stiglitz Says

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SEC Signs Deal To Investigate DeFi Transactions

Blockchain analytics firm AnChain.AI has signed a deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to help monitor and regulate the turbulent decentralized finance (DeFi) industry, according to a company spokesperson. The initial value of the contract is $125,000, with five separate one-year $125,000 option years for a total of $625,000.

According to CEO and co-founder Victor Fang, “The SEC is very keen on understanding what is happening in the world of smart contract-based digital assets…so we are providing them with technology to analyze and trace smart contracts.”

AnChain.AI is a San Jose-based artificial intelligence and machine learning blockchain startup that focuses on tracking illicit activity across crypto exchanges, DeFi protocols, and traditional financial institutions. In revealing the SEC contract, which started in May 2021, the company also announced today a $10 million Series A round of funding led by an affiliate of Susquehanna Group, SIG Asia Investments LLP, at an undisclosed valuation.

The deal comes on the heels of the SEC taking further interest in DeFi as it rapidly matures and grows in size. The industry currently manages more than $82 billion, and the largest decentralized exchange, Uniswap, processed over $1.8 billion worth of transactions in the last 24 hours, many of which included tokens that could be determined to be securities by the SEC.

Additionally, these platforms are becoming increasingly complex. Fang noted that the Uniswap platform is actually an amalgam of 30,000 separate smart contracts that execute the actual exchange of tokens.

The SEC’s first major action against the DeFi space came in 2018, when it shut down EtherDelta, a ‘DeFi’ exchange that it deemed to be operating illegally.

In an August interview with The Wall Street Journal, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler warned that DeFi operations are not immune from oversight because they use the word decentralized, and that “There’s still a core group of folks that are not only writing the software, like the open source software, but they often have governance and fees…There’s some incentive structure for those promoters and sponsors in the middle of this.”

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce echoed this sentiment in a March interview with Forbes, but perhaps in an acknowledgement of the potential in DeFi asked these projects to come forward and be pro-active with the regulator, “When you start to look at the tokens themselves and try to figure out whether they’re securities, it does get kind of confusing.

In particular, it’s so hard in the DeFi landscape because there’s such variety. This is why I encourage individual projects to come in and talk to the SEC because it really does require a look at the very particular facts and circumstances.”

In addition to cataloguing and monitoring known wallets tied to illicit actors, AnChain.AI has built a predictive engine that can be used to identify unknown addresses and transactions that could be suspicious. This is all part of Fang’s goal to move beyond doing “post-incident investigations” to move the “defense all the way up to the upstream” and make it “preventive”.

Aside from government clients, AnChain.AI’s technology is also being used by centralized cryptocurrency exchanges and traditional financial institutions. In a press release, Ye Li, Investment Manager at SIG said of the investment, “AnChain.AI has made great progress in developing its market-leading crypto security technology to meet its customers’ broad demand in regulatory compliance and transaction intelligence.”

The SEC declined to comment.

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I am director of research for digital assets at Forbes. I was recently the Social Media/Copy Lead at Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States.

Source: SEC Signs Deal To Investigate DeFi Transactions

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U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As Beijing Targets ‘Excessive’ Wealth

Shares of Chinese tech giants trading in the United States struggled to pare losses Friday amid intensifying concerns over China’s efforts to impose sweeping new regulations on its publicly traded companies over the next several years, yielding market value losses of more than $150 billion for the 10 largest U.S.-listed Chinese stocks this week alone.

Key Facts

As of 2:45 p.m. EDT, shares of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, the largest Chinese company listed in the U.S., were among the hardest hit, down more than 15% on the New York Stock Exchange over the past week to $157, deflating its market capitalization to $424 billion.

Fellow online retailers JD.com and Pinduoduo, posted similarly staggering losses, wiping out about $20 billion and $10 billion in market value this week, respectively, despite ticking up about 2% Friday.

“China remains a huge source of global concern,” market analyst Adam Crisafulli of Vital Knowledge Media wrote in a Friday email, pointing to the nation’s strengthening regulatory campaign against corporations and actions that last month included demanding online education companies end their for-profit business models.

This week, shares of Chinese stocks have crashed steadily since Tuesday, when President Xi Jinping vowed to redistribute wealth in the nation by regulating “excessively high incomes”—spurring a sell-off that crushed shares of European luxury companies that do big business in China, like LVMH and Gucci-parent Kering.

U.S.-listed shares of online-gaming company NetEase, electric carmaker NIO and Internet firm Baidu plunged 11%, 10% and 10%, respectively, this week.

All told, the 10 largest Chinese companies trading in the United States have lost about $153 billion in market value since last week—more than 15% of their combined market value of roughly $940 billion.

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Key Background

In a matter of weeks, China has introduced harsh regulations targeting wide swaths of its economy and showing investors how risky investing in its market can be, Tom Essaye, author of the Sevens Report, wrote in a recent note. “Yes, there’s a huge market and lots of growth potential, but obviously there are regulatory risks that seem to be growing larger with every passing month,” said Essaye.

Last week, officials released a sweeping five-year blueprint for the crackdown, covering virtually every sector in its market. Then on Wednesday, China’s market regulators published a long list of draft rules targeting tech companies, barring them from using data to influence consumer choices and “traffic hijacking activities,” among other things.

Crucial Quote

“This is all a stark reminder that the current regulatory crackdown from Beijing is not going to let up,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a Thursday note, forecasting U.S. tech stocks, which are outperforming the broader market Friday, should benefit from the tech-focused crackdown in China over the next year. “The fear with more regulation in China around the corner is a major worry that is hard for investors to digest, and it will ultimately cause more of a rotation from the China tech sector to U.S. tech.”

Surprising Fact

The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China index, which tracks Chinese businesses trading in the United States, is down 9% this week and has crashed 51% from a February all-time high.

Further Reading

U.S., European Investment Banks May Have Lost Some $12 Billion As Chinese Education Firms Crashed (Forbes)

China’s Internet Tycoons Suffer $13.6 Billion Wealth Drop As Regulatory Crackdown Triggers Market Sell-Off (Forbes)

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I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism

Source: U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As Beijing Targets ‘Excessive’ Wealth

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Market News

1h Does the US economy need another $480 billion in stimulus? – CNN Business
2h Top Wall Street analysts say these stocks are long-term buys – CNBC
22h Gold fails at $1,800, another selloff might be on its way – Kitco
1d Fed To Taper This Year – What Are the Odds? – Benzinga
1d Half a trillion dollars erased from China markets in a week – New York Post
1d US Indexes Close Higher Friday – GuruFocus
1d Taking Stock of Small-Cap Earnings – Zacks Investment Research
1d Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium to take place virtually due to Covid risk – CNBC
1d Fed’s Jackson Hole conference to take place virtually – Reuters
1d U.S. dollar net long bets slip in latest week -CFTC, Reuters data – Reuters
1d China Evergrande’s Bailout Hopes Continue to Fade – GuruFocus
1d Fed ‘actively working’ on US digital currency, official says – New York Post
1d Fed Minutes, Retail Data Weighed on Wall Street This Week – Schaeffers Research
1d Wall Street Week Ahead: Investors stick to stocks, but gear up for bumpier ride – Reuters
1d Looking to Cash In on a Stronger U.S. Dollar? – ETF Trends
1d U.S.-Listed Chinese Stocks Have Lost Another $150 Billion In Market Value This W… – Forbes
1d Biden Freezes Student Loan Interest Rates For 47,000 Service Members – Forbes
1d Read This Before Your Next Trade – Zacks Investment Research
1d Fed officials will seek to avoid a tantrum as they keep ‘taper talk’ going at Ja… – CNBC
1d ‘Flash recession’ could hit markets by the fall – Fox Business

Digital Transformation Depends on Diversity

Across industries, businesses are now tech and data companies. The sooner they grasp and live that, the quicker they will meet their customer needs and expectations, create more business value and grow. It is increasingly important to re-imagine business and use digital technologies to create new business processes, cultures, customer experiences and opportunities.

One of the myths about digital transformation is that it’s all about harnessing technology. It’s not. To succeed, digital transformation inherently requires and relies on diversity. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the result of human intelligence, enabled by its vast talents and also susceptible to its limitations.

Therefore, it is imperative for organizations and teams to make diversity a priority and think about it beyond the traditional sense. For me, diversity centers around three key pillars.

People

People are the most important part of artificial intelligence; the fact is that humans create artificial intelligence. The diversity of people — the team of decision-makers in the creation of AI algorithms — must reflect the diversity of the general population.

This goes beyond ensuring opportunities for women in AI and technology roles. In addition, it includes the full dimensions of gender, race, ethnicity, skill set, experience, geography, education, perspectives, interests and more. Why? When you have diverse teams reviewing and analyzing data to make decisions, you mitigate the chances of their own individual and uniquely human experiences, privileges and limitations blinding them to the experiences of others.

One of the myths about digital transformation is that it’s all about harnessing technology. It’s not.

Collectively, we have an opportunity to apply AI and machine learning to propel the future and do good. That begins with diverse teams of people who reflect the full diversity and rich perspectives of our world.

Diversity of skills, perspectives, experiences and geographies has played a key role in our digital transformation. At Levi Strauss & Co., our growing strategy and AI team doesn’t include solely data and machine learning scientists and engineers. We recently tapped employees from across the organization around the world and deliberately set out to train people with no previous experience in coding or statistics.

We took people in retail operations, distribution centers and warehouses, and design and planning and put them through our first-ever machine learning bootcamp, building on their expert retail skills and supercharging them with coding and statistics.

We did not limit the required backgrounds; we simply looked for people who were curious problem solvers, analytical by nature and persistent to look for various ways of approaching business issues. The combination of existing expert retail skills and added machine learning knowledge meant employees who graduated from the program now have meaningful new perspectives on top of their business value. This first-of-its-kind initiative in the retail industry helped us develop a talented and diverse bench of team members.

Data

AI and machine learning capabilities are only as good as the data put into the system. We often limit ourselves to thinking of data in terms of structured tables — numbers and figures — but data is anything that can be digitized.

The digital images of the jeans and jackets our company has been producing for the past 168 years are data. The customer service conversations (recorded only with permissions) are data. The heatmaps from how people move in our stores are data. The reviews from our consumers are data. Today, everything that can be digitized becomes data. We need to broaden how we think of data and ensure we constantly feed all data into AI work.

Most predictive models use data from the past to predict the future. But because the apparel industry is still in the nascent stages of digital, data and AI adoption, having past data to reference is often a common problem. In fashion, we’re looking ahead to predict trends and demand for completely new products, which have no sales history. How do we do that?

We use more data than ever before, for example, both images of the new products and a database of our products from past seasons. We then apply computer vision algorithms to detect similarity between past and new fashion products, which helps us predict demand for those new products. These applications provide much more accurate estimates than experience or intuition do, supplementing previous practices with data- and AI-powered predictions.

At Levi Strauss & Co., we also use digital images and 3D assets to simulate how clothes feel and even create new fashion. For example, we train neural networks to understand the nuances around various jean styles like tapered legs, whisker patterns and distressed looks, and detect the physical properties of the components that affect the drapes, folds and creases. We’re then able to combine this with market data, where we can tailor our product collections to meet changing consumer needs and desires and focus on the inclusiveness of our brand across demographics.

Furthermore, we use AI to create new styles of apparel while always retaining the creativity and innovation of our world-class designers.

Tools and techniques

In addition to people and data, we need to ensure diversity in the tools and techniques we use in the creation and production of algorithms. Some AI systems and products use classification techniques, which can perpetuate gender or racial bias.

For example, classification techniques assume gender is binary and commonly assign people as “male” or “female” based on physical appearance and stereotypical assumptions, meaning all other forms of gender identity are erased. That’s a problem, and it’s upon all of us working in this space, in any company or industry, to prevent bias and advance techniques in order to capture all the nuances and ranges in people’s lives. For example, we can take race out of the data to try and render an algorithm race-blind while continuously safeguarding against bias.

We are committed to diversity in our AI products and systems and, in striving for that, we use open-source tools. Open-source tools and libraries by their nature are more diverse because they are available to everyone around the world and people from all backgrounds and fields work to enhance and advance them, enriching with their experiences and thus limiting bias.

An example of how we do this at Levi Strauss & Company is with our U.S. Red Tab loyalty program. As fans set up their profiles, we don’t ask them to pick a gender or allow the AI system to make assumptions. Instead, we ask them to pick their style preferences (Women, Men, Both or Don’t Know) in order to help our AI system build tailored shopping experiences and more personalized product recommendations.

Diversity of people, data, and techniques and tools is helping Levi Strauss & Co. revolutionize its business and our entire industry, transforming manual to automated, analog to digital, and intuitive to predictive. We are also building on the legacy of our company’s social values, which has stood for equality, democracy and inclusiveness for 168 years. Diversity in AI is one of the latest opportunities to continue this legacy and shape the future of fashion.

By: Katia Walsh

Source: Digital transformation depends on diversity | TechCrunch

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SEC Reportedly Halts Chinese Firm IPOs After Ride-Hailer DiDi Global’s $50 Billion Crash

1

The Securities and Exchange Commission has stopped accepting registrations for the issuance of securities by China-based companies until it outlines the risks posed by such investments, Reuters reported Friday, marking the agency’s first set of action after mounting government interference in China this month erased billions of dollars in market value from recently listed DiDi Global and other China-based companies.

Key Facts

The SEC has said it won’t accept new registrations until it has released specific guidance on how companies should disclose the risks posed by China-based investments, unnamed sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. There are reportedly no such IPOs in the works, but it’s unclear how long the guidance may take to develop.

The reported decision comes after SEC commissioner Allison Lee on Tuesday said Chinese companies listed in the U.S. should disclose the risks of Chinese government interference to investors as part of their required reporting disclosures.

Similarly, a group of five GOP Senators on Wednesday urged SEC Chair Gary Gensler to “demand immediate and robust action” addressing a recent crackdown by Beijing officials on Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. The SEC did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.

Key Background

In a matter of days, China introduced regulatory actions targeting both ride-hailing app DiDi and the nation’s education companies—harsh measures showing investors how risky investing in the market can be, Tom Essaye, author of the Sevens Report wrote in a Tuesday note. Days after DiDi’s massive U.S. IPO, the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered app stores to remove the ride-hailer from their platforms, claiming it “severely violat[ed] regulations around the collection of personal data.

” DiDi stock has plunged nearly 50% since the action, wiping out nearly $50 billion in market value in less than one month. Then, in a weekend order earlier this month, China’s education ministry barred “capitalized operations” among “online training institutions,” saying such companies can no longer turn a profit or raise money in the public markets and triggering a selloff in the space that erased nearly half the market value of many education firms.

Crucial Quote

“Yes, there’s a huge market and lots of growth potential, but obviously there are regulatory risks that seem to be growing larger with every passing month,” notes Essaye.

Surprising Fact

The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China index, which tracks Chinese companies trading in the United States, is down 12% this week and nearly 34% over the past six months.

Big Number

$12.8 billion. That’s how much Chinese listings in the United States have raised so far this year, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters. Genser said that he was concerned U.S. investors frequently don’t understand the structure of the companies whose shares they are buying.

In cases where China forbids foreign ownership, “many China-based operating companies are structured as Variable Interest Entities (VIEs). In such an arrangement, a China-based operating company typically establishes an offshore shell company in another jurisdiction, such as the Cayman Islands,” Gensler said.

The Chinese government has taken action against U.S.-listed Alibaba  (BABA) – Get Report and Didi Global  (DIDI) – Get Report in recent months. Days after Didi executed its IPO earlier in July, China forbade the ride-hailing titan from signing up new users.

Further Reading

Exclusive-U.S. regulator freezes Chinese company IPOs over risk disclosures -sources (Reuters)

US-Listed Chinese Tech Stocks Erase Nearly $150 Billion In Market Value This Week As China Stokes Regulatory Fears (Forbes)

The move comes as the SEC works on new guidelines for disclosing to investors the risk of continued regulatory crackdowns by China’s government, knowledgeable sources told Reuters. In a statement Friday, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said “I have asked staff to seek certain disclosures from offshore issuers associated with China-based operating companies before their registration statements will be declared effective.”

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: SEC Reportedly Halts Chinese Firm IPOs After Ride-Hailer DiDi Global’s $50 Billion Crash

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Critics:

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Didi is contemplating going private to soothe Chinese regulators and make whole investors who have suffered losses as Didi’s shares declined since the IPO. Didi called The Journal’s report “not true.”

In any case, SEC commissioner Allison Lee said Tuesday that as part of their reporting chores, U.S.-listed Chinese companies must tell investors the risks of Chinese government interference in their activity, according to Reuters.

U.S. listings of Chinese stocks have jumped to a record $12.8 billion so far this year, according to Refinitiv. The market’s repeated surges to record highs have attracted Chinese companies. But the move against Didi has slowed things down.

Shares of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. tumbled late last week and early this week amid fears about the government crackdowns.Didi fell 30% from July 21 to July 27. It recently traded at $10.14, up 3%, but has dropped 28% since its IPO. Alibaba recently traded at $194.31, down 2%, and has slumped 15% in the last month.

Amazon Stock Loses $130 Billion In Market Value After $885 Million Fine And Disappointing Earnings Report

Shares of Amazon fell as much as 8% Friday after the e-commerce juggernaut disclosed a massive fine from European regulators for allegedly breaking regional privacy laws and posted second-quarter earnings results that failed to meet Wall Street expectations, putting the longtime market leader on track for its worst day in more than a year.

Key Facts

As of 11:15 a.m. EDT, Amazon stock has plunged 7% Friday to about $3,349.50, pushing the firm’s market capitalization down below $1.7 trillion and wiping out nearly $130 billion from a closing level above $1.8 trillion Thursday.

Ushering in the massive losses, Amazon posted second-quarter revenue after Thursday’s market close of $113.1 billion—up 27% year over year, but falling short of average analyst expectations totaling $115 billion.

Despite soaring more than 48%, net income of more than $7.7 billion also fell slightly short of estimates, which called for about $7.8 billion.

The stark decline also comes after Amazon disclosed a $885 million (746 million euros) fine, levied on July 16, by the Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection, which claims Amazon’s processing of personal data did not comply with European regulations.

In the filing, Amazon, which in a statement asserts no data breach has occurred, said it believes the watchdog’s decision is “without merit” and that it intends to appeal the ruling and defend itself “vigorously” in the matter.

Amazon’s Friday plunge puts it on track for its worst one-day decline since the height of pandemic uncertainty tanked the broader market in March 2020.

Crucial Quote

“Consumers’ online shopping levels are returning to more normal levels as they shift some spending to other entertainment sources and offline shopping,” Morningstar analyst Dan Romanoff said in a Friday note. “Meanwhile, the company continues to add capacity [and costs] at a breakneck pace in order to meet customer demand and one day delivery,” Romanoff added, pointing out Amazon has already nearly doubled its footprint during the last 18 months.

Surprising Fact

Shares of Amazon are now down more than 10% from a record closing high of $3,719 earlier this month.

Tangent

Amazon far underperformed the broader market Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which doesn’t include Amazon, ticked down just 0.2%, while the S&P 500, which counts the retail giant as its third-largest component, fell 0.4%.

Chief Critic

“Maintaining the security of our customers’ information and their trust are top priorities. There has been no data breach, and no customer data has been exposed to any third party. These facts are undisputed,” Amazon said in a statement Friday. “The decision relating to how we show customers relevant advertising relies on subjective and untested interpretations of European privacy law, and the proposed fine is entirely out of proportion with even that interpretation.”

Further Reading

Amazon hit with $886m fine for alleged data breach (BBC)

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I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: Amazon Stock Loses $130 Billion In Market Value After $885 Million Fine And Disappointing Earnings Report

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Critics:

With technology stocks garnering renewed scrutiny, it’s helpful to take a look back at one company that has weathered some of the most severe market downturns and serious doubts from Wall Street: Amazon. Betting on the online bookstore wasn’t always a sure thing. Amazon’s journey from tiny garage start-up to one of the most valuable companies in the world has paid off for investors, but shareholders needed a strong stomach.“Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”

In the early 1990s, Jeff Bezos walked away from a Wall Street career with an outlandish idea to sell books on the World Wide Web. In 1994, he launched Amazon.com. “I found this fact on a website that the web was growing at 2,300 percent per year,” Bezos told CNBC in a 2001 interview about his early foray into book selling. “The idea that sort of entranced me was this idea of building a bookstore online.”

The site experienced growth quickly, going public three years later with $16 million in revenue and 180,000 customers spanning more than 100 countries (according to its SEC filing). But even as the site began growing, many investors had their doubts about Amazon, instead favoring brick-and-mortar book-selling giant Barnes & Noble.

At an early meeting between Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio and Bezos, Riggio reportedly told Bezos he would “crush” Amazon. Barnes & Noble dwarfed the young start-up. The traditional bookseller had hundreds of stores and more than $2 billion in revenue. It was also tapping into major Silicon Valley talent to built its own sleek new website.

On top of that, it was suing Amazon over the start-up’s claim to be “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” But for those who took a chance and bought Amazon stock at the initial public offering, their investment has returned a compound annual growth rate of 38 percent since the IPO – outperforming the S&P 500 which had a total return of 10 percent annually over the same period.

Tech stocks have been under renewed pressure in recent weeks as the markets have experienced volatility. From September to November, Amazon stock lost a quarter of its value as the wider tech sector took major hits. Some analysts say it’s a good time to buy in. Others say Amazon’s growth rate has hit a ceiling as the company enters maturity.

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Do You Get Your Money’s Worth From Buying An Annuity?

Coin Stacks And Chart Graphs On A Chessboard

Once upon a time, in the (somewhat mythical) past of traditional defined benefit pensions, your employer protected you from the risk of outliving your money in retirement, by acting, more or less, as an insurance company providing an annuity. With that benefit receding into the past, many experts have been hoping that Americans with 401(k) plans would avail themselves of annuities on their own, to give themselves the same sort of protection, and, indeed, the SECURE Act of 2019 made it easier for those plans to offer their participants an annuity choice, and, when surveyed, 73% of those participants said they would “consider” an annuity at retirement.

At the same time, though, Americans distrust annuities — in part because traditional deferred annuities had high fees and expenses and only made sense in an era predating IRAs and 401(k)s, when they were attractive solely due to the limited tax-advantaged options for retirement savings. But that’s not the only reason — annuities, quite frankly, aren’t cheap.

How do you quantify the value of an annuity? In one respect, it’s subjective and personal: do you judge yourself to be in good health, or does family history and your list of medications say that you’ll be one of those with the early deaths that longer-lived annuity-purchasers are counting on? Do you want to be sure you can maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement, or do you figure that you won’t really care one way or another if you have to cut down expenses once you’re among the “old-old”?

But measuring the value of annuities, generally speaking, does tell us whether consumers are getting a fair deal from their purchases, and here, a recent working paper by two economists, James Poterba and Adam Solomon, “Discount Rates, Mortality Projections, and Money’s Worth Calculations for US Individual Annuities,” lends some insight.

Here’s some good news: using the costs of actual annuities available for consumers to purchase in June 2020, and comparing them to bond rates which were similar to the investment portfolios those insurance companies hold, the authors calculated “money’s worth ratios” that show that, for annuities purchased immediately at retirement, the value of the annuities was between 92% – 94% (give-or-take, depending on type) of its cost. That means that the value of the insurance protection is a comparatively modest 6 – 8% of the total investment.

But there’s a catch — or, rather, two of them.

In the first place, the authors calculate their ratios based on a standard mortality table for annuity purchasers — which makes sense if the goal is to judge the “fairness” of an annuity for the healthy retirees most likely to purchase one. But this doesn’t tell us whether an annuity is a smart purchase for someone who thinks of themselves as being in comparatively poorer health, or with a spottier family health history, and folks in these categories would benefit considerably from analysis that’s targeted at them, that evaluates, realistically, whether annuities are the right call and whether their prediction of their life expectancy is likely to be right or wrong.

In the second place, the 92% – 94% money’s worth calculation is based on the typical investment portfolio of insurance companies, approximated by the returns of BBB-rated bonds. This measures whether the annuity is “fair” or not, in that “moral” sense of whether the perception that the company is “cheating” is customers is real (it’s not).

But these interest rates are very low. The authors, in addition to their calculations of “money’s worth,” back into the implied discount rate from the annuity costs themselves. For men aged 65, that interest rate is 2.16%; for women aged 65, 2.18%.

Now, imagine that you compare this annuity to an alternative plan of investing your money in the stock market, earning 7% annual returns, and believing you can predict your death date (or not really caring if you fall short or end up with leftover money for heirs).

The cost of the protection offered by the annuity, the guarantee that you will never run out of money, and that you will not suffer from a market crash, is very expensive indeed — when you compare apples to oranges in this manner, the money’s worth ratio is, according to my very rough estimates, more like 60%, meaning that about 40% of your cash is spent to purchase the “insurance protection” of the annuity.

And, again, that’s not because insurance companies are cheating anyone; that’s solely because of the wide gap between corporate bond rates and expected returns when investing in the stock market— a gap which was particularly wide in the summer of 2020 when this study was competed, but remains nearly as wide now.

As it stands, Moody’s Baa rates are in the 3% range; in the 2000s, they were in the 6% range, and in the 1990s, from 7% – 9%. Although this drop in bond rates is good news for American homebuyers because this marches in tandem with mortgage rates, it makes it far harder for retirees to manage their finances in ways that protect them from the risks that they face in their retirement.

Perhaps interest rates in general, and bond rates specifically, will increase as we leave our current economic challenges, but there’s no certainty, and as long as this gap between bond rates and expected stock market returns remains so substantial, retirees will be challenged to find any sort of safe investment that makes sense for them. Which means that what seems like a great benefit for Americans looking to borrow money — for mortgages, car loans, credit cards — can pit the elderly against the young in a generational “us vs. them” contest.

As always, you’re invited to comment at JaneTheActuary.com!

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Yes, I’m a nerd, and an actuary to boot. Armed with an M.A. in medieval history and the F.S.A. actuarial credential, with 20 years of experience at a major benefits consulting firm, and having blogged as “Jane the Actuary” since 2013, I enjoy reading and writing about retirement issues, including retirement income adequacy, reform proposals and international comparisons.

Source: Do You Get Your Money’s Worth From Buying An Annuity?

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Critics:

An annuity is a series of payments made at equal intervals.[1] Examples of annuities are regular deposits to a savings account, monthly home mortgage payments, monthly insurance payments and pension payments. Annuities can be classified by the frequency of payment dates. The payments (deposits) may be made weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or at any other regular interval of time. Annuities may be calculated by mathematical functions known as “annuity functions”.

An annuity which provides for payments for the remainder of a person’s lifetime is a life annuity.

Variability of payments

  • Fixed annuities – These are annuities with fixed payments. If provided by an insurance company, the company guarantees a fixed return on the initial investment. Fixed annuities are not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Variable annuities – Registered products that are regulated by the SEC in the United States of America. They allow direct investment into various funds that are specially created for Variable annuities. Typically, the insurance company guarantees a certain death benefit or lifetime withdrawal benefits.
  • Equity-indexed annuities – Annuities with payments linked to an index. Typically, the minimum payment will be 0% and the maximum will be predetermined. The performance of an index determines whether the minimum, the maximum or something in between is credited to the customer.

See also

References

  • Kellison, Stephen G. (1970). The Theory of Interest. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin, Inc. p. 45
  • Lasher, William (2008). Practical financial management. Mason, Ohio: Thomson South-Western. p. 230. ISBN 0-324-42262-8..
  1. Jordan, Bradford D.; Ross, Stephen David; Westerfield, Randolph (2000). Fundamentals of corporate finance. Boston: Irwin/McGraw-Hill. p. 175. ISBN 0-07-231289-0.
  • Samuel A. Broverman (2010). Mathematics of Investment and Credit, 5th Edition. ACTEX Academic Series. ACTEX Publications. ISBN 978-1-56698-767-7.
  • Stephen Kellison (2008). Theory of Interest, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill/Irwin. ISBN 978-0-07-338244-9.

Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.

The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.

“I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia.

With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.”

The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February.

“During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes.

One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person.

But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs. Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said.

“If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said.

At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines. But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good.

Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.”

For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.”

The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Garland, who lives in Hampton, Virginia, tapped out a tweet:

Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.”

Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

By: and

Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Refusal of work is behavior in which a person refuses regular employment. As actual behavior, with or without a political or philosophical program, it has been practiced by various subcultures and individuals. Radical political positions have openly advocated refusal of work. From within Marxism it has been advocated by Paul Lafargue and the Italian workerist/autonomists (e.g. Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti), the French ultra-left (e.g. Échanges et Mouvement); and within anarchism (especially Bob Black and the post-left anarchy tendency).

In employment law, constructive dismissal, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment. Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination. For example, when an employer places extraordinary and unreasonable work demands on an employee to obtain their resignation, this can constitute a constructive dismissal.

The exact legal consequences differ between different countries, but generally a constructive dismissal leads to the employee’s obligations ending and the employee acquiring the right to make claims against the employer. The employee may resign over a single serious incident or over a pattern of incidents. Generally, a party seeking relief must have resigned soon after one of the constructive acts.

Notes

Ethereum Creator Loses Over $400 Million As Crypto Market Collapses

TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015 - Day 2

Vitalik Buterin, co-creator of the world’s second most-valuable blockchain Ethereum, has taken a major hit to his net worth after the price of ether (ETH) dipped below $2,000 earlier on Monday.

As of 3:15 p.m. ET, ETH is trading at $1,938 according to Messari, down by more than 50 percent just five weeks after reaching its all-time-high of $4,338 on May 12. The decline of the second-largest cryptocurrency falls in line with the rest of the market, as crypto prices have fallen across the board since news broke of a renewed clampdown on bitcoin miners in China.

Buterin’s two main ether addresses currently hold 325,001 and 1,366 ETH worth a collective $632,499,246 as of 3:15 p.m. ET. The current value of his holdings is $457,500,754 less than the $1.09 billion it was worth on May 3 at 1:30 p.m. ET, according to Messari, when Buterin became the world’s youngest crypto billionaire at age 27. When ETH’s value first surpassed the $3,000 price level Buterin held 333,520 ETH worth $1.09 billion. Forbes is unable to account for the 7,153 ETH difference between his holdings now versus on May 3.

Ether’s current market capitalization is $223,752,321,616, second only to the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin with a market capitalization of $606,843,934,844. Ethereum has gained notoriety this year as the birthplace of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications aiming to create decentralized alternatives to traditional financial services. At the time of writing there is $51 billion locked in the DeFi market, according to data aggregator DeFi Pulse.

Emily Mason

 

By:

 

Source: Ethereum Creator Loses Over $400 Million As Crypto Market Collapses

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Well, it’s not necessarily Ethereum that is a risky investment, it’s cryptocurrencies: They are highly speculative. Even though some experts and crypto supporters believe they could replace fiat currency one day, the answer is much more complicated.

Despite their bustling activity growth, efficiency, and impressive blockchain technology render, many countries are still anxious about cryptos replacing fiat currency. But even though peer-to-peer currency might be the bane of central banking systems around the world, the simple answer would be: no, cryptos won’t replace fiat. Why?

Because their usage is on the rise, their speculative popularity is why they won’t be adopted as mainstream legal tender: they are driven for value storage and speculative trading – rather than for transactional value.

For instance, very few mainstream businesses accept cryptos as legal tender – only 2’300 businesses accept it in the United States, which mostly only accept Bitcoins. When you consider that there are over 30 million businesses in the US, a thin fraction accepts Bitcoins, which puts Ethereum at a disadvantage.

As the past few weeks have proven, their volatility can be a double-edged sword: Between May 12 and May 24, Ethereum has lost nearly 50% of its value. While it has somewhat recovered since it is gut-wrenching to see.

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