NFT-Related Token Prices Soar Amid Digital Art Mania

NFT-Related Token Prices Soar Amid Digital Art Mania

Crypto assets that are linked with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) marketplaces have risen sharply since the mania took off a few months ago. NFTs are selling at prices that many consider ridiculous for intangible artwork.

Third-Largest Art Sale by a Living Artist Was Tokenized

One piece of art created by the digital artist called Beeple – a collage of the artist’s work since 2007 – recently sold for a record $69.3 million at the auction house Christie’s. The JPG file became the third-largest art sale by a living artist after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.

According to the latest data from blockchain research firm Kaiko, NFT-related tokens have soared in line with the record sales in digital art. Decentraland, a virtual world where players can purchase NFTs, has seen its MANA token surge 682% since Feb. 1.

NFT-Related Token Prices Soar Amid Digital Art Mania

The token Flow, a product of Dapper Labs (partner of NFT marketplace NBA Top Shot), climbed 216% to a high of $37.73 on Mar. 13. Rarible (RARI) rose more than 825% from $4.11 on Feb. 1 to a peak of $38.02 on Mar. 15. Enjin (ENJ) is up over 640% to $2.61 over the same period.

“The word ‘NFT’ has officially entered the pop-cultural lexicon following digital artist Beeple’s historic sale of a non-fungible token at Christie’s,” said Kaiko, in a blog post on Mar. 15.

Millions of Dollars Worth of Blockchain-Backed NFTs Sold

Non-fungible tokens serve functions such as governance, utility, and rewards. They also act as a barometer for sentiment within the NFT industry. According to The Tie, NFT mentions in the media were up more than 100 times over the last year.

The NFT mania may indeed border on the insane. Keen to cash in on the craze, a Brooklyn man, Alex Ramírez-Mallis, 36, collected one year of his and friends’ farts which he compiled into a 52-minute “Master Collection” audio file, the New York Post reported.

Now the top bid for the audio file is $183. Individual fart recordings are going for 0.05 ether, or $85. One single fart has already been bought by an anonymous buyer.

More than $449 million worth of NFTs has been sold throughout the world since such sales started a few years ago, according to data from nonfungible.com. That’s from 5.41 million pieces sold at an average price of $82.97.

What do you think about the NFT mania? Let us know in the comments section below.

ETC Group Lists Ether ETP on Deutsche Borse’s Xetra, Company’s Bitcoin ETP Now Has $1 Billion AUM

ETC Group Lists Ether ETP on Deutsche Borse's Xetra, Company's Bitcoin ETP Now Has $1 Billion AUM

Financial services company Etc Group on Tuesday launched its centrally-cleared ethereum exchange-traded product (ETP) on the Deutsche Borse’s Xetra marketplace.

Etc Group Launches Ethereum Exchange-Traded Product

The listing follows the success of the firm’s bitcoin ETP, which was launched on the same exchange in June 2020. That bitcoin exchange-traded product now has $1 billion assets under management (AUM), it said.

In a press release, London-based Etc Group revealed that the ether exchange-traded product (primary ticker: ZETH), tracks the price of ethereum (ETH) and is 100% physically backed by the cryptocurrency.

ETPs allow investors to gain exposure to an asset, in this case ether, but without having to buy it directly themselves.

Approved by Bafin, the German financial regulator, each unit of ZETH is backed by ethereum stored at custody services provider Bitgo Trust Company, “giving the investor a claim on a predefined amount of the underlying ETH,” said the company.

‘Similar Liquidity and Tight Spreads as Etc Group’s Physical Bitcoin Product’

Securities brokers or banks assume custody of ZETH bought through their desks on behalf of investors. With its new ethereum exchange-traded product, Etc Group is particularly targeting institutional investors – who until now might have appeared to lean heavily toward bitcoin.

“The listing on Xetra is especially relevant for institutional investors as they can now get exposure to ether while trading an institutional-grade product with similar liquidity and tight spreads as Etc Group’s physical bitcoin product,” it explained.

The ether ETP will be distributed and marketed on a platform operated by Hanetf, a European Union-approved private issuer of exchange-traded funds. Last June, Etc Group listed its bitcoin ETP, or BTCE, on Xetra, becoming the “most traded product on the exchange’s ETN segment in the second half of 2020. BTCE is also listed and traded on Swiss exchange SIX.

Furthermore, the competitor 21shares, formally known as Amun launched an ether ETP this week, alongside a bitcoin cash (BCH) ETP listing on Deutsche Borse’s Xetra.

What do you think about the Etc Group crypto investment products? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ripple’s Asia Pacific Business Flourishing Despite SEC Lawsuit, Says CEO

Ripple's Asia Pacific Business Flourishing Despite SEC Lawsuit, Says CEO

Ripple chief executive officer Brad Garlinghouse said Friday that the company’s business in the Asia-Pacific region has not suffered from the ongoing regulatory issues in the U.S.

Ripple’s Business in Asia and Japan Sees Growth

Ripple is facing a $1.3 billion lawsuit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In December, the SEC charged Ripple, creators of the eponymous XRP cryptocurrency, and its top executives with selling unregistered securities since 2013.

The blockchain payments firm denies the charges, but that has not stopped a number of U.S. crypto exchanges, including Coinbase, from delisting XRP, the world’s seventh most valuable digital asset by market capitalization.

Garlinghouse, who is accused of personally gaining up to $600 million from the unregistered sale of XRP in an ICO offering, told Reuters in a Mar. 5 interview that business in areas like Japan was flourishing.

It (the lawsuit) has hindered activity in the United States, but it has not really impacted what’s going on for us in Asia Pacific. We have been able to continue to grow the business in Asia and Japan because we’ve had regulatory clarity in those markets.

CEO Claims the Token ‘Still Traded on Over 200 Exchanges Around the World’

The Asia Pacific region is a major remittance corridor for Ripple and the firm has achieved remarkable results as a remittance solution provider in the region. In Japan, Ripple concluded a joint venture deal with Japanese conglomerate SBI Holdings to create SBI Ripple – a company that aims to facilitate payments underpinned by Ripple’s technology.

Garlinghouse revealed that his company has signed more than 15 new contracts with banks worldwide since the SEC brought its lawsuit, according to the Reuters report. He added that the lack of regulatory clarity in the U.S. is hindering innovation.

“We’re seeing the activity of XRP liquidity has grown outside the United States and continue to grow in Asia, certainly in Japan,” he said. On XRP delistings, the Ripple CEO stated that he was not aware of any exchange outside the U.S. that had stopped trading of the token.

XRP is traded on over 200 exchanges around the world. It’s really only three or four exchanges in the United States that have halted trading,” said Garlinghouse, who has previously spoken about relocating Ripple’s headquarters from the U.S. due to unfavorable regulation.

What do you think about Ripple’s overseas operations as revealed by the CEO? Let us know in the comments section below.

Crypto Tax Compliance Startup Taxbit Raises $100 Million, Targets International Expansion

Crypto Tax Compliance Startup Taxbit Raises $100 Million, Targets International Expansion

U.S. crypto tax compliance startup Taxbit has raised $100 million in a Series A funding round led by investment firms Paradigm and Tiger Global. Paypal Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, and others including Bill Ackman, Ryan Smith, and Anthony Pompliano also joined the round.

Taxbit chief executive officer Austin Woodward said the funds will be invested in the company’s enterprise tools as well as used to expand into Europe this year, with the U.K. as the first port of call.

“One of the greatest financial innovations and disruptions of the last century, cryptocurrency, should not be weighed down by the complexities of tax and accounting,” Woodward said in a March 3 blog post.

“Our products are removing some of the largest roadblocks of this emerging asset class. With the support of Paradigm, Tiger Global … we are excited to continue to scale world-class tax and accounting products so that cryptocurrency can continue to thrive among enterprises, consumers, and governments,” he added.

Founded in 2018, Taxbit’s platform automates all aspects of crypto tax compliance for individuals, enterprises — such as crypto exchanges, wallet providers, lending platforms etc. — and local governments that are receiving bill payments in virtual currency. The company says it has processed more than 1 million tax forms to date.

Per the blog post, the investment round also comes in response to growing global demand for crypto services, as digital asset markets rally, driving the industry’s total market capitalization to around $1.5 trillion. “The importance of Taxbit’s tailored tax and accounting software is readily apparent,” noted Michelle O’Connor, Taxbit’s vice president of marketing.

Taxbit hopes to offer an enterprise resource planning tool for companies in compliance with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Woodward told Forbes that the tool will help entities “manage crypto transactions for optimal tax results much like other software tools do for foreign currencies.”

What do you think about Taxbit’s tax solution? Let us know in the comments section below.

China’s Inner Mongolia Plans to Shut Down Bitcoin Mining Operations by April This Year

China's Inner Mongolia Plans to Shut Down All Bitcoin Mining Operations by April This Year

Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in northern China, is planning to shut down all cryptocurrency mining activities in the area by April 2021, as part of efforts to improve energy efficiency.

Regulating the Electrical Consumption in Inner Mongolia

The government of Inner Mongolia will also stop approving new projects in energy-intensive industries such as steel and coke production, Reuters reported on Mar. 1, citing a draft policy to regulate energy consumption in the region.

Chinese journalist “Wu Blockchain” tweeted that the decision might be due to China’s need to meet its carbon emissions commitments under the U.N. climate change treaty. Much of the energy produced in Inner Mongolia is coal-based, a major source of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. China, the world’s second-largest polluter after the U.S., aims to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2060.

Together with the likes of Sichuan and Xinjiang provinces, Inner Mongolia is a favorite destination for miners looking to extract bitcoin (BTC) at low electricity prices. According to Cambridge University’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, Inner Mongolia accounts for eight percent of the global hash power total, and China 65%, though these figures have been brought into question.

Beijing’s Energy Consumption Targets Carbon Neutrality Before 2060

However, the region drew criticism from the central government in September after it failed to meet Beijing’s energy consumption and energy intensity targets in 2019. It was the only one of 30 Chinese mainland areas that failed to do so, according to the Reuters report.

Now, China’s second-largest coal-mining region is going all out to cut consumption from sectors considered to be using a lot of electricity, including bitcoin mining. Crypto mining, which requires large amounts of computing power, will be shut down by April this year. Other affected industries have until the end of 2022 to wind down their operations.

Per the Reuters report, Inner Mongolia “aims to cap energy consumption growth at around five million tonnes of standard coal equivalent in 202.” It also plans to cut “the amount of energy consumed per unit of economic growth, by three percent from 2020

“[(Inner Mongolia] will tighten its energy control measures and bear the targets throughout all economic and social aspects,” said the draft policy. The region’s energy intensity rose by 9.5% during the period 2016-2019.

What do you think about the impending closure of crypto mining in Inner Mongolia? Let us know in the comments section below.

Philippine Crypto Exchange Demands Users Return Bitcoin Bought at $6,000 Following System Error

Philippine Crypto Exchange Demands Users Return Bitcoin Bought at $6,000 Following System Error

Philippine crypto exchange Pdax recently suffered a costly technical failure – one that led to bitcoin trading at 300,000 Philippine pesos (around $6,000) – a discount of 88% to its current price.

In the melee, some users managed to buy at these ridiculously low prices and quickly moved the bitcoin (BTC) away from their exchange wallets before the error was detected, local news outlet Bitpinas reported. The actual amount of BTC hoarded at the $6,000 give-away price is not clear.

However, the Philippine Digital Asset Exchange, or Pdax, is now demanding that users return the bitcoin or face legal action. The exchange has since locked out several of its clients from their accounts for this reason. But the traders are having none of it.

“After almost 24 hours, they sent me a demand letter and SMS, requesting me to transfer back the BTC, or they ‘may’ be compelled to take legal actions against me.” said one trader who bought at the low price and is convinced he did not violate any of the trading platform’s laws during the purchase.

Rafael Padilla, a lawyer representing one of the Pdax users being asked to return the BTC and locked out of their accounts, said:

Our client’s trade transaction was legitimate under applicable laws, decided cases, and of course according to Pdax’s very own terms and conditions/user agreement.

According to Padilla, Pdax has opted to lock users out of their accounts because it cannot unilaterally reverse the transactions.

The exchange began to suffer outages from around Feb. 16, which it blamed on “unprecedented levels of trading and volatility”. An official statement from Pdax chief executive officer Nichel Gaba claims that 95% of accounts have been restored, but several users reportedly still remain locked out of their accounts.

On Feb. 23, Gaba told a virtual press conference that: “It’s very understandable that a lot of users will feel upset they were able to buy what they thought an order was there for bitcoin at very low prices. But unfortunately, the underlying bitcoins were never in the possession of the exchange, so there’s never really anything there to be bought or sold, unfortunately.”

What do you think about the technical failure at Pdax? Let us know in the comments section below.

Bitcoin Has No Intrinsic Value, Asset Is Too Volatile, Says Bank of Korea Governor

Bitcoin Has No Intrinsic Value, Asset is Too Volatile, Says Bank of Korea Governor

Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol has said that crypto assets like bitcoin have no intrinsic value – put simply, a measure of what an asset is actually worth.

● Speaking in the National Assembly on Feb. 23, Lee forecast that bitcoin (BTC) will see increased price swings going forward, the local news agency Yonhap reported.

● “It is very difficult to predict the price, but its price will be extremely volatile,” said the bank chief in response to a question from a lawmaker who wanted to know whether bitcoin’s recent bull run, where its price reached a record high above $58,000, was temporary.

● Lee also spoke about the possible reasons supporting bitcoin’s recent rally. He believes that rising corporate interest in BTC, as well as concerns over looming excessive inflation due to too much fiat money printing by world governments, has given the crypto a leg up.

● “These assets saw a steep rise in the shortest period of time. I would say institutional investors’ assessment of using bitcoins as a hedge could be interpreted as another factor,” he explained.

● The central bank governor also revealed that the “bank is close to completing our review of designs and relevant technologies regarding bank-controlled digital currencies,” according to a separate report by The Korea Times.

● Bitcoin slumped more than 17% to under $48,000 on Feb. 22 after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen criticized the top cryptocurrency as an “extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions.”

What do you think about the Bank of Korea governor’s bitcoin comment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Bitfinex and Tether Fined $18.5M in Settlement With NY Attorney General, Both Firms Barred From Trading in the City

Bitfinex and Tether Fined $18.5M in Settlement With NY Attorney General, Both Firms Barred From Trading in the City

Bitfinex and Tether have been banned from operating in New York and must pay a fine of $18.5 million as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s (NYAG’s) office over a case dating back to 2019.

In a statement on Tuesday, NY Attorney General Letitia James accused the two entities of hiding severe losses from investors. “Bitfinex and Tether recklessly and unlawfully covered-up massive financial losses to keep their scheme going and protect their bottom lines,” said James.

She continued: “Tether’s claims that its virtual currency was fully backed by U.S. dollars at all times was a lie. These companies obscured the true risk investors faced and were operated by unlicensed and unregulated individuals and entities dealing in the darkest corners of the financial system.”

Per the statement, an NY Attorney General’s investigation found that the companies made false statements about the backing of tether, with Bitfinex using Tether’s funds to clandestinely cover an $850 million financial hole at its bank Crypto Capital in Panama.

According to the investigation, from 2017, Tether had no access to the banking system and did not have reserves to back the tether (USDT) in circulation at the time. Bitfinex stresses that it did not lose any money, claiming Crypto Capital’s funds were confiscated by governments in Portugal, Poland and the U.S.

Bitfinex and Tether have now been barred from having any trading activity with the citizens of New York, as a result. The NYAG requested that the two companies submit regular reports on core business functions. Tether must also offer public disclosures, by category, of the assets backing tether, including disclosure of any loans or receivables to or from affiliated entities.

Tether published a statement on Tuesday “admitting to no wrongdoing.” It argued:

The Attorney General’s Office concluded, in essence, that we could have done better in publicly disclosing these events. Contrary to online speculation, after two and half years there was no finding that Tether ever issued tethers without backing, or to manipulate crypto prices.

What do you think about Bitfinex and Tether settling with the NYAG’s Office? Let us know in the comments section below.

Nvidia Limits the Efficiency of Mining Ether Using Its GPUs by 50%

Nvidia Limits the Efficiency of Mining Ether Using Its GPUs by 50%

Nvidia announced that it will start limiting the efficiency of mining ethereum or any other crypto using its new range of upcoming graphics processing units (GPUs).

In a blog post published Feb. 19, the U.S. hardware maker said this limitation will feature first on its new Geforce RTX 3060 card, which is scheduled for release on Feb. 25.

Nvidia revealed that the new GPU software drivers are designed to detect specific attributes of the ether (ETH) mining algorithm, and limit the hash rate, or cryptocurrency mining efficiency, by around 50%.

However, the software won’t limit the efficiency of all crypto mining activities, Itpro reported, “with the limiter only activating when processes use Dagger Hashimoto or Ethash-like algorithms.”

The Nasdaq-listed firm is hoping that the restriction will discourage the purchase of gaming-oriented graphics cards for large ethereum mining operations. ETH is one of a few coins that can still be mined using graphics cards.

GPUs, which are mainly used in video game consoles, have reportedly been in short supply due to hoarding by ETH miners, manufacturing limitations and supply chain issues resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Prices have soared, as a result.

“We are gamers, through and through,” Nvidia declared. “We obsess about new gaming features, new architectures, new games and tech. We designed Geforce GPUs for gamers, and gamers are clamoring for more,” it added.

However, Nvidia revealed that it is planning to produce GPUs specifically targeting ethereum miners called Cryptocurrency Mining Processor (CMP). It said the new mining processor, due for release in March, will not “do graphics” and will not “meet the specifications required of a Geforce GPU and, thus, don’t impact the availability of Geforce GPUs to gamers.”

The firm stated that the CMP “lacks display outputs, enabling improved airflow while mining so they can be more densely packed.” CMPs also have a lower peak core voltage and frequency, which improves mining power efficiency, it explained.

What do you think about Nvidia’s ethereum mining limit? Let us know in the comments section below.

Malaysian Police Bust Gang That Stole $2.15 Million Worth of Electricity to Mine Bitcoin

Malaysian Police Bust Gang That Stole $2.15 Million Worth of Electricity to Mine Bitcoin

Police in Malaysia’s Jahor state have busted a seven-men gang that stole 8.6 million Malaysian ringgits ($2.15 million) worth of electricity to mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

● Police said they seized 1,746 bitcoin (BTC) mining machines across 21 premises in raids carried out between Feb.15 and Feb.16, the Malay Mail reported. The miners are claimed to be worth a combined 2.6 million ringgits ($650,000).

● Seven local suspects aged between 24 and 64 were nabbed in the operation, which involved domestic power company Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB).

● “The syndicate, which has been active since the beginning of last year, carried out its activities on the top floor of a shophouse to avoid detection by the authorities,” said Johor’s police chief, Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

● Ayob Khan added that police are still investigating the operation, whose alleged mastermind and other gang members are still at large.

● “Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the syndicate also has links with syndicates in other states that carry out the same modus operandi used in their bitcoin mining activities,” he said.

● According to Johor TNB, last year the electricity company suffered losses of around 90 million ringgits ($22.5 million) from power thefts related to bitcoin mining.

What do you think about the theft of electricity for crypto mining? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Dubai Government Licensing Entity Now Accepts Bitcoin for Payments

Dubai Government Licensing Entity Now Accepts Bitcoin for Payments

A government-owned entity in Dubai has started accepting bitcoin, ether and tether as payment for its services, according to local media reports.

Kiklabb is a free trade zone that helps companies set up shop in Dubai, a wealthy city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Kiklabb issues trade and other licenses as well as processes visas.

The entity also leases office space to its customers on-board the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner anchored at Port Rashid in Dubai. Payments for these and other services can now be made in bitcoin (BTC), the Gulf News reported on Feb. 16.

Tasawar Ulhaq, chief executive officer of Kiklabb, said the decision was made in response to a “growing interest in cryptocurrency with several customers in blockchain and fintech (financial technology) sectors.”

He noted that crypto-based payments allowed for more accessibility for global entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the UAE. “It really was just a matter of time before we recognized bitcoin, ethereum, and tether. Cryptocurrencies are the payment method of the future,” said Ulhaq.

Kiklabb worked with unnamed “international partners for payment processing of cryptocurrency transactions.” The CEO believes other government departments will follow in his footsteps.

“We’re the first government owned licensing entity in the UAE to accept cryptocurrency payments – and certainly not the last. With the technology rapidly gaining traction across the Middle East, I’m eager to see how it changes the way we do business in the near future,” Ulhaq stated.

The UAE is planning to use blockchain technology for 50% of government transactions this year. The Dubai Future Foundation estimates that the country could save more than $3 billion through blockchain and cryptocurrency use, per the Gulf News report.

What do you think about Kiklabb’s move to accept cryptocurrency payments? Let us know in the comments section below.

Bitcoin’s Rapid Increase Should Compel Crypto Investors to Own Gold, Says Top Miner

Bitcoin's Rapid Increase Should Compel Crypto Investors to Own Gold, Says Top Miner

Sandeep Biswas, chief executive officer of Newcrest Mining, one of the world’s biggest gold miners, has said that the sharp increase in bitcoin prices should compel crypto investors to hold gold as a safe-haven asset.

In a Feb. 11 interview with Bloomberg TV, Biswas criticized bitcoin’s (BTC) volatility while flouting gold’s credentials as a time-tested haven against monetary inflation.

“If you’re into cryptos, you want to consider having some gold,” said Biswas, who heads Australia’s top gold producer. “[Bullion] may act as a bit of a hedge against the volatility of cryptos.”

Bitcoin has drawn comparisons with gold, and the top cryptocurrency is now accepted in some quarters as gold’s digital equivalent. This week, BTC raced to a record high of $48,800 after Tesla, the Elon Musk-owned electric car maker, revealed a $1.5 billion investment in the digital currency.

Tesla’s investment reignited the debate on whether bitcoin would eventually take over gold as the safe-haven asset of choice. Biswas was unimpressed, stressing that gold was more stable than BTC, and crypto investors who owned the precious metal stood to benefit from this stability. He explained:

Gold is a different class of investment. It’s a tangible asset: you can see it, you can touch it, you can feel it, you can mold it, you can make it into jewelry, whatever you want.

According to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., bitcoin and gold can co-exist together, even as the crypto asset continues to strip the metal of some of its investments. Goldman believes gold will endure the capital flight. Bloomberg commodity strategist Mike McGlone also argued that BTC has matured into a gold-like store of value – a digital version of gold.

Spot gold is about 3% lower year-to-date at $1,826 an ounce after hitting an all-time high above $2,000 last year. At the time of writing, each bitcoin was trading for around $47,649, up 0.18% over the past 24 hours, as per data from markets.Bitcoin.com.

What do you think about Sandeep Biswas’ suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Paypal Launches Business Unit Dedicated To Cryptocurrency

Paypal Launches Business Unit Dedicated To Cryptocurrency

Paypal is launching a new business unit dedicated to cryptocurrency services, the company chief executive officer Daniel Schulman announced this week.

In an earnings call on February 3, 2021, Schulman said the existing financial system is outdated and that his firm will be investing a lot of money into blockchain and digital currencies. Schulman explained:

We all know the current financial system is antiquated, and we can envision a future where transactions are completed in seconds, not days; a future where transactions should be less expensive to complete; and a future that enables all people to be part of the digital economy, not just the affluent. We are significantly investing in our new crypto, blockchain, and digital currencies business unit in order to help shape this more inclusive future.

The new crypto business unit is expected to launch later this quarter. The CEO also revealed that customers will be able to use crypto to pay for goods and services at Paypal’s 29 million merchants worldwide. This service is expected to be rolled out before the end of this quarter.

Schulman said “we hope to launch our first international market in the next several months” and is also expecting to integrate crypto with Venmo later this year. He also stated that “everyone who signed up for crypto is opening up their app two times as much as they previously did.”

Paypal announced in late October that its customers – running in excess of 300 million active users – will now be able to buy, hold and sell bitcoin (BTC) and other digital assets using their Paypal accounts. The decision caused BTC prices to rise sharply at the time.

What do you think about Paypal’s new crypto business unit? Let us know in the comments section below.

Argo Blockchain Buys 172.5 Bitcoins as Reserve Asset, Monthly Revenue Soars 52%

Argo Blockchain Buys 172.5 Bitcoins as Reserve Asset, Monthly Revenue Soars 52%

Argo Blockchain said Wednesday that it bought 172.5 bitcoins in the second half of January as part of its asset management strategy.

● In a trading update, the London Stock Exchange-listed bitcoin miner also reported strong revenue growth during the review month, climbing 52% to £2.48 million ($3.37 million) from £1.63 million ($2.21 million) in December.

● Argo did not reveal how much it spent buying the reserve BTC, but bitcoin prices during the last half of January oscillated between $30,000 and $38,500. The company said it now holds the equivalent of 501 in bitcoin, as of the end of January.

● For the month in review, Argo Blockchain mined 93 bitcoins, down from 96 BTC in December. Mining output appears to have progressively declined at the London firm over the last few months. In November, Argo extracted 115 BTC, falling from 126 BTC mined in October.

● Peter Wall, chief executive officer of Argo, said: “I am thrilled that Argo has delivered our best month in the company’s history in both mining revenue and profits. The year has started off very strong.”

● Argo operates 16,000 bitcoin mining rigs located throughout North America, with a capacity of 645 petahash per second (PH/s) in bitcoin mining hashrate. The company also mines privacy coin zcash (ZEC) and claims to operate 5% of the global ZEC hashpower total. Argo’s total mining capacity is currently 787 petahash (SHA-256) in addition to 280 Megasols of equihash mining capacity as well.

● Shares of Argo Blockchain are up 0.64% at £95 ($129) in afternoon London trading Thursday. The stock has soared more than 1,100% over the last three months.

What do you think about Argo’s bitcoin purchase? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Crypto Firm to Launch Polkadot ETP on Swiss Exchange SIX

Crypto Firm to Launch Polkadot ETP on Swiss Exchange SIX

21Shares AG, a Zurich-based investment provider, is launching what is being dubbed as the world’s first Polkadot exchange-traded product, or ETP.

The DOT ETP will be listed on the Swiss exchange SIX on Thursday, February 4, said the company in a statement on Tuesday. DOT is the native token of the Polkadot network.

DOT has since been added to 21Shares’ Crypto Basket ETP (HODL), which tracks five major assets including bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH). Since its addition on Jan. 29, DOT now accounts for 27% of the product behind BTC at 50%.

Hany Rashwan, chief executive officer of 21Shares, said the firm has seen “unprecedented demand” from institutional investors wanting exposure to crypto-assets. He stated that demand for its range of crypto ETPs has soared 500% since the third quarter of 2020, but there has been “a recent surge in interest” for DOT.

“After investors purchase their first bitcoins through our ETPs, there is a natural transition to invest in other crypto assets,” Rashwan detailed.

“We benefit from trusted partners for the liquidity provision and upon continued institutional demand, we are launching the DOT ETP to give investors a safe, regulated, and easy way to obtain exposure to this exciting new blockchain technology,” he added.

Rashwan revealed that 21Shares, an issuer of exchange-traded products, is planning to add up to three ETPs over the next 3 months. He said European investors have been approaching the company to launch new products.

Created by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, Polkadot is a cross-blockchain that enables transfers of any type of data or asset, not just tokens. It is also used as an electronic payment system.

DOT is now the world’s fifth-largest cryptocurrency, boasting a market capitalization of $16.55 billion, according to data from markets.Bitcoin.com. At the time of writing, DOT is trading at $17.22, up 8% over the past 24 hours.

What do you think about the Polkadot ETP? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wall Street Bets and Gamestop Saga to Be Made Into a Movie

Wall Street Bets and Gamestop Saga to Be Made Into a Movie

The Wall Street Bets saga, an incredibly ridiculous story about a group of amateur Reddit investors who beat career Wall Street hedge funds at their own game, is to be made into a movie.

According to a report by online news site Deadline on Jan. 31, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) won the rights to produce the film in a bidding war involving major Hollywood movie houses.

The movie is to be based on a book proposed by author Ben Mezrich. Mezrich’s previous work, “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook, a Tale Of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” was adapted into the motion picture “The Social Network.”

The title to his planned latest book offering is called “The Antisocial Network,” said the report, quoting sources familiar with the development. The book is expected to go out to publishers later this February, it said.

However, it is not yet clear what shape or structure the movie will take. MGM’s Michael DeLuca will produce the film. DeLuca also produced the Academy-Award winning The Social Network. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss will executive produce via their Winklevoss Pictures production company.

The Wall Street Bets group noticed that major hedge funds on Wall Street had been placing short bets against companies they considered to be dying. The funds particularly targeted Gamestop, the world’s largest video game retailer, continually shorting the company’s shares.

But the Redditors saw an opportunity to make profit and collectively bet the other way, buying shares and stock options. This resulted in the value of the Gamestop shares soaring by more than 2,600% in January.

Hedge funds that had shorted the stock incurred losses running into several billions of dollars. One fund, Melvin Capital, reportedly lost up to $7 billion to the “short squeeze” in January, forcing it to restructure its investment portfolio to ensure a faster escape in future “squeezes.”

The Reddit traders also extended the pump to a few other stocks considered to be dying, including AMC (which climbed over 900% in January), as well as Nokia and Blackberry. This surge of activity resulted in a major controversy when the trading app Robinhood began restricting trade on certain stocks.

What do you think about the Wall Street Bets saga being turned into a film? Let us know in the comments section below.

BIS Chief Banker Criticizes Bitcoin as Inherently Risky, Says BTC Vulnerable to 51% Attack

Bank for International Settlements (BIS) general manager Agustin Carstens has criticized bitcoin saying the asset was inherently risky and “increasingly vulnerable” to a 51% attack.

A long time bitcoin (BTC) skeptic, Carstens stressed that only central banks should be issuing digital currencies.

“Investors must be cognizant that bitcoin may well break down altogether,” he opined, in a speech delivered at Hoover Institute on January 27, 2021. “Scarcity and cryptography alone do not suffice to guarantee exchange,” Carstens stressed.

Carstens, who runs the Basel-based central bank for central banks, speculated that the Bitcoin network becomes “increasingly vulnerable” to majority attacks as the cryptocurrency approaches its maximum supply of 21 million coins.

With fewer coins being produced, rewards to miners for processing transactions will also decline, he said, and confirmation wait times will increase. As a result, bitcoin’s vulnerability to majority attacks will go up.

Carstens described bitcoin as “a speculative asset” that lacks “the actual value backing” and as such, should be seen as a “community of online gamers.” He also cited mining using “more electricity than all of Switzerland” and alleged price manipulation as reasons for this impending breakdown.

“Bitcoin poses as its own unit of account, but fluctuations in value mean it is unrealistic to set prices in bitcoin. This also undermines its usefulness as a means of exchange, and makes it a poor store of value,” noted Carstens.

The BIS chief banker also took aim at stablecoins, such as the one proposed by Facebook originally known as Libra, but recently renamed Diem. He finds fault with private entities running a public monetary system by issuing coins that are backed by other assets such as fiat currencies.

“Private stablecoins cannot serve as the basis for a sound monetary system. They need to be heavily regulated and supervised,” Carstens thundered. In his book, governments should forever remain in control of issuing money.

“Clearly, if digital money is to exist, the central bank must play a pivotal role, guaranteeing the stability of value, ensuring the elasticity of the aggregate supply of such money, and overseeing the overall security of the system,” he explained.

What do you think about Agustin Carstens’ remarks on bitcoin risk and vulnerability? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Bitcoin Inflows in Past 30 Days Exceed BTC’s Total Market Cap in 2017 and 2019, Says Report

The total amount of capital inflows into bitcoin during the 30 days to Jan. 25 are as high as the entire bitcoin market capitalization in September 2017 and early 2019, according to new data from Glassnode.

Glassnode co-founder and CTO Rafael Schultze-Kraft tweeted that cash inflows into bitcoin (BTC), as estimated by the realized cap, reached $70 billion during the calendar month in review, equalling the whole BTC market cap value for September four years ago and early 2019.

In 2017, bitcoin prices rose sharply within a space of just three months, peaking at nearly $20,000 by December – an all-time-high then – in a rally largely led by small-time investors fearful of missing out on BTC’s unprecedented price surge.

Now, Glassnode data reflects the spike in institutional interest in bitcoin. In the last few months, institutions have pumped in billions of dollars into the top cryptocurrency, either as a reserve asset or hedge against monetary inflation.

The asset’s bullish run in late 2020, when it reached a record of about $42,000, has been largely sustained by corporate and institutional involvement – something that is considered by analysts as giving BTC staying power. At this point, cryptocurrency’s total market value had crossed the psychological $1 trillion mark.

But amidst the euphoria, the price of bitcoin tailspinned to under $30,000 from over $40,000 within just 24 hours, leading to some random shouts of the bubble bursting. Since then, BTC has struggled to reclaim the $40,000 handle, with trades oscillating between the $31,000 and $37,000 range in the last fortnight.

Meanwhile, Etoro senior analyst Simon Peters says that the crash in bitcoin prices over the past week is not the bubble bursting. He says demand from large corporate investors will prevent bitcoin from falling further.

Peters predicts that BTC will hit $70,000 by year-end because “the fundamental backdrop for bitcoin remains positive.”

“Despite the drop, the demand from large institutional investors remains impressive,” Peters said in comments shared with news.Bitcoin.com.

“The demand isn’t slowing and I believe that many investors will view any significant dip not as a bubble burst but as an opportunity arisen. Investors of all sizes will be looking at a price in the region of $28,000 as an excellent chance to top up their positions,” he opined.

What do you think about the capital inflows coming into bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.

Bahrain Central Bank Issues License to Shariah-Compliant Crypto Exchange

Bahrain Central Bank Issues License to Shariah-Compliant Crypto Exchange

Middle Eastern crypto exchange Coinmena said this week that it had obtained a crypto assets services company license from the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) ahead of its planned launch.

In receiving the license, the exchange, which has been certified by the Shariyah Review Bureau, said it had met several technical, operational, and security requirements from the CBB.

Coinmena added that the license allows it to operate as a regulated and onshore platform, becoming one of only a few fully licensed and operating crypto exchanges in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region,

At launch, Coinmena plans to offer spot trading in five major crypto assets – bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), ripple (XRP), bitcoin cash (BCH), and litecoin (LTC) to both retail and institutional investors. It will also host an over-the-counter (OTC) desk for larger transactions.

The exchange did not provide a date for its planned launch. Its services will be available to investors in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman, it said in a Jan. 24 statement.

Dina Sam’an, co-founder and managing director of Coinmena, detailed:

Obtaining the license from the Central Bank of Bahrain allows us to operate under one of the most robust and globally-renowned digital assets regulatory frameworks where governance, security, and customer protection are central to all our operations.

Shariah compliance is a key customer need and regulatory requirement in most Muslim markets. As regards bitcoin, the technology has been viewed as “haram” – meaning that it is prohibited under Shariah laws on the basis that cryptocurrencies may be used for illegal activities such as money laundering and fraud, according to some experts.

There is also concern over a lack of central authority and how that cryptocurrency strip governments and central banks of their power over national monetary systems.

What do you think about Coinmena’s licensing by the Central Bank of Bahrain? Let us know in the comments section below.

Marathon Patent Group Buys $150 Million Worth of Bitcoin as a Reserve Asset

Marathon Patent Group Buys $150 Million Worth of Bitcoin as a Reserve Asset

Marathon Patent Group announced Monday that it bought 4,813 bitcoins in a deal worth $150 million. The firm joins the growing list of publicly listed companies holding bitcoin in their treasuries.

Merrick Okamoto, chairman and chief executive officer of Marathon, said the Nasdaq firm is buying bitcoin (BTC) as a reserve asset.

“We…believe that holding part of our treasury reserves in bitcoin will be a better long-term strategy than holding US dollars, similar to other forward-thinking companies like Microstrategy,” said Okamoto, in a statement.

“By purchasing $150 million worth of bitcoin, we have accelerated the process of building Marathon into what we believe to be the de facto investment choice for individuals and institutions who are seeking exposure to this new asset class,” he added.

Marathon, which is already involved in BTC mining, bought the dip, paying an average of about $31,135 per bitcoin. The deal was executed by crypto financial services firm New York Digital Investment Group (NYDIG) and completed on Jan. 21.

Bitcoin prices plunged below $30,000 last week, but bounced back to between $32,000 and $34,000. At the time of writing, BTC is trading around the $32k handle per unit.

Earlier this January, Marathon raised $250 million in an equity round, but this was not used to buy the BTC. Okamoto revealed that the bitcoin purchase was funded from internal cash resources amounting to $425 million, industry media reported.

As a miner, Marathon is currently producing up to two bitcoins per day but is now looking to expand with the purchase of 103,000 advanced S19 bitcoin miners from Bitmain. Okamoto said the miners are expected to be delivered and fully installed by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“If all miners were operational today, based on the bitcoin network’s current difficulty rate, we would produce approximately 55 to 60 bitcoins per day,” he stated. “However, by leveraging our cash on hand to invest in bitcoin now, we have transformed our potential to be a pure-play investment into a reality.”

In October, Marathon announced a joint venture agreement with Beowulf Energy, which reduces its electricity costs for extracting bitcoin by 38%. Shares of Marathon fell 0.44% to $18.22 on Monday. The stock is up more than 56% since Jan. 1.

What do you think about Marathon purchasing bitcoin for the company’s treasury? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.

Hive Blockchain Buys 6,400 Bitcoin Miners From Canaan, Capacity Reaches 1,229 PH/s

Hive Blockchain Buys 6,400 Bitcoin Miners From Canaan, Capacity Reaches 1,229 PH/s

Canadian bitcoin miner Hive Blockchain has bought 6,400 next generation mining machines from Canaan. The Avalonminer 1246 miners will add a combined 576 petahash per second (PH/s) to Hive’s existing hash power.

● With the addition of the new machines, Hive’s total hash rate will increase to an estimated 1,229 PH/s, well beyond the company’s original cumulative hash rate target of 1,000 PH/s for 2021.

● In a statement this week, Hive said the equipment will be delivered in eight tranches in 2021, with 500 miners delivered in May and June, and 900 miners delivered each month until year-end.

● Vancouver-based Hive said the latest purchase, which is double the 3,500 miners bought last year, “is part of our continuing strategy to increase our bitcoin mining capacity.” For the December 2020 quarter, the firm mined 140 bitcoins and over 22,000 ethereum (ETH).

● According to Canaan’s Web Store, the Avalonminer 1246 is selling for $1,450 each. The miner is the Chinese company’s most powerful range available and comes with a hash rate of 90TH/s.

● Hive operates mining facilities that run on renewable energy in Canada, Sweden and Iceland. Shares of Hive fell 15% to $2.42 Canadian dollars ($1.91) in Toronto trading on Thursday. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has swung to a high of CAD$3.50 and a low of CAD$0.12. Year-to-date, Hive is down more than 10%.

What do you think about Hive’s latest purchase of bitcoin miners? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ethereum Could Touch $10,500 After Crypto Rises to Record High: Fundstrat Global

Ethereum Could Touch $10,500 After Crypto Rises to Record High: Fundstrat Global

Fundstrat Global Advisors strategist David Grider predicts that the price of ethereum could rally to $10,500 per unit after the cryptocurrency set a new all-time high on Tuesday. The estimate implies a near 700% upside on the current ether price hanging above the $1,300 range.

According to Grider, ether (ETH) – the second largest digital asset after bitcoin (BTC) – will continue to benefit from its relationship with decentralized finance (defi) applications, the majority of which are built on the Ethereum blockchain, and have seen massive growth in 2020.

He also premised his prediction on the recent upgrade to the Ethereum network, which is targeting to become a blockchain for an entire financial system. When fully completed, he said, the three-part upgrade would allow the blockchain to process the same number of transactions as those done by the likes of Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc.

“Ether is the best risk/reward investment play in crypto,” Grider was quoted as saying, adding that “blockchain computing may be the future of the cloud.” Risks may include delays in the network upgrade or the crypto market becoming bearish, said the report.

Ethereum shot 12% to a record high of nearly $1,440 on Tuesday, amid increased buying pressure.

Meanwhile, Luis Cuende, cofounder of the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) Aragon, commented: “When thinking about what the Web 3.0 vision provides, institutional investors will recognise that although sovereign digital currency (BTC) is central, the importance of a programmable economy (ETH) should not be underestimated.”

He added: “ETH fundamentals are as robust as ever. Ethereum has actually found early product-market fit, and the protocol is making revenue. ETH is definitely maturing as an asset.”

Cuende sees ether bouncing between $2,500 and $7,500. He also believes that Ethereum rivals Polkadot, Cosmos, and NEAR “are well-positioned to capture a meaningful market share” until ETH 2.0 is complete.

What do you think about the Fundstrat Global price prediction on ether? Let us know in the comments section below.

Australian Bitcoin Trader Sues Banks for Systematic Discrimination

Australian Bitcoin Trader Sues Banks for Systematic Discrimination

An Australian bitcoin trader has filed a lawsuit against two of the country’s biggest commercial banks, accusing them of systematic discrimination when they closed his accounts on short notice.

Allan Flynn is demanding compensation of AU$250,000 ($193,000) from ANZ and Westpac banks for closing his accounts immediately after they had been opened, the Australian Financial Review reported on Jan. 18.

Flynn, who operates a registered bitcoin (BTC) exchange, has started proceedings against both banks at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The trader alleges he is the victim of unlawful discrimination, with no less than 20 banks closing his accounts in the past three years.

He lamented:

How am I supposed to run a lawful business if I can’t get a bank account? I am by no means alone or the first. I know of at least one other trader who has had accounts closed more than 60 times.

Flynn’s exchange is registered with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), he says, and has helped facilitate BTC trades for about 450 customers.

Westpac reportedly told Flynn that his account was closed because he was “under investigation for cryptocurrency fraud.” ANZ said it does not offer banking services to crypto brokers, issuers or exchanges. Per the report, Flynn claimed an ANZ worker had informed other banks and his clients that he was involved in fraud.

Crypto exchange operators have had a tough time opening and maintaining accounts with traditional banking institutions. Earlier this month, Chile’s Free Competition Defense Court ruled that Banco Itaú and Banco Estado, two major banks in the country, must reopen the checking accounts of crypto exchange Buda.

The accounts were closed in 2018 after they were wrongly implicated in a scam run by Terra Finance.

What do you think about banks denying crypto exchanges banking services? Let us know in the comments section below.

Iran Seizes 45,000 Bitcoin Miners for Illegally Using Subsidized Government Electricity: Report

Iran Seizes 45,000 Bitcoin Miners for Illegally Using Subsidized Government Electricity: Report

Police in Iran have reportedly seized 45,000 bitcoin mining rigs for illegally using subsidized electricity from the state-owned power utility Tavanir, the local Tasmin News Agency reported this week.

According to Mohammad Hassan Motavalizadeh, head of Tavanir, the efficient application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) bitcoin miners had been consuming 95 megawatts (MW) per hour of electricity at cheaper prices.

Authorized miners are charged around 4,800 rials ($0.11) per kilowatt-hour in autumn, winter and spring, says the Iranian Energy Ministry. Subsidized rates may be half as much.

Since 2019, when crypto mining became legal in Iran, the Islamic Republic has shut down 1,620 unauthorized mining farms, local media reported earlier this month. The farms consumed 250MW of electricity, it said.

Now, the Middle East country is currently facing severe power shortages due to rising winter demand, with rolling blackouts across major cities. The government decided to blame bitcoin (BTC) mining for the dire situation.

As a result, Iran’s Energy Ministry has temporarily cut the supply of 600MW of power to all authorized BTC miners in the country, redirecting the energy to household use.

Per the Tasmin News Agency report, authorities also put a halt to production at a vast mining operation in the southwest of Iran. The facility is owned by a Chinese-Iranian investment company and is reportedly using “tens of thousands” of ASIC miners to extract bitcoin.

Some cryptocurrency researchers have argued that although miners are being targeted, they were not responsible for the current blackouts. Ziya Sadr told the Washington Post that bitcoin mining accounts for a very small share of the national electricity consumption total in Iran, where demand peaks at 40,000MW in winter.

What do you think about the Iranian government’s bitcoin equipment seizure? Let us know in the comments section below.

Paypal to Earn $2 Billion in Revenue From Its Bitcoin Business, Says Analyst

Paypal to Earn $2 Billion in Revenue From Its Bitcoin Business, Says Analyst

Mizuho Securities analyst Don Dolev has forecast that Paypal will earn up to $2 billion in revenue from its bitcoin business by 2023. This year, he expects that the payment giant’s overall revenue will climb 20%.

Dolev says there has been a “dramatic increase in engagement due to crypto,” with 50% of Paypal crypto users opening the app daily. “Both our survey and management commentary unveil a dramatic increase in engagement due to crypto,” said Dolev in a note to clients this week.

Paypal announced in October that its 346 million active users will now be able to buy, hold and sell bitcoin and other digital assets using their Paypal accounts. The company’s crypto service, which runs on Paxos’ fiat-to-crypto exchange, Itbit, has seen an explosion of interest ever since.

At one time, Paypal was buying 70% of all newly minted bitcoin. Dolev’s survey found that bitcoin (BTC) traders use the Paypal app three times as much as non-bitcoiners and that they had significantly higher cash balances on their Paypal digital wallets.

Dolev raised his target price for the Paypal stock to $350 from $290. The stock closed 0.94% down at $239.79 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange on Friday. Over the past 52 weeks, the shares have reached a high of $249.85 and a low of $82.07.

In a related development, Lisa Ellis, analyst at Moffett Nathanson, predicted that Paypal’s crypto business will contribute up to $600 million to group revenue in 2021. “Over the long-term, we believe Paypal’s cryptocurrency initiatives have significant strategic value,” she was quoted as saying by Market Watch.

Ellis added that this will help “diversify the Paypal and Venmo apps into ‘destination apps’ for a broad range of financial services, and positioning Paypal to help shape the long-term role of cryptocurrencies in the consumer payment system.”

What do you think about Paypal’s bitcoin revenue estimates? Let us know in the comments section below.

Anchorage Obtains Federal License to Operate as Crypto Bank From the OCC

Anchorage Obtains Federal License to Operate as Crypto Bank From the OCC

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has granted conditional approval to crypto custodian Anchorage to launch the first federally chartered digital asset bank in the country.

In a statement on Jan. 13, 2021, the OCC said the company received the national trust banking charter, which allows it to create Anchorage Digital Bank, following a thorough review of its operations.

With the approval, Anchorage will now be expected to comply with the capital and liquidity requirements of the OCC and certain risk management procedures. The firm signed an agreement with the banking regulator to this effect.

“By bringing this applicant into the federal banking system, the bank and industry will benefit from the OCC’s extensive supervisory experience and expertise,” said the regulator, a unit of the U.S. Treasury Department.

“At the same time, the Anchorage approval demonstrates that the national bank charters were provided under the National Bank Act are broad and flexible enough to accommodate evolving approaches to financial services in the 21st century,” it added.

Founded in 2017 by Nathan McCauley and Diogo Mónica, Anchorage provides crypto custody and trading services to institutional investors. The firm reportedly manages around $100 billion in transactions per year.

Anchorage filed for a national banking charter last year, hoping, among other things, to make it easier for conventional banks to offer crypto services via what it calls sub-custody with the company.

In a blog post on Wednesday, McCauley and Mónica detailed:

Having a national bank charter places Anchorage Digital Bank firmly on the same regulatory footing as other national banks in the country. Since our founding, we’ve been credited numerous times with blurring the lines between crypto and traditional finance. Today, we’re happy to see those lines begin to be erased.

Anchorage becomes the first cryptocurrency entity to receive a federal charter. However, last year Kraken and Avanti were both licensed to operate as digital asset banks by Wyoming state. The state charter allows the duo to go national, but there are limits.

The Anchorage banking charter is being hailed as an important development in the growth of the crypto industry in the U.S. Under Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks, the OCC has shown some progress in building the nascent sector. Last year, the regulator allowed banks to use stablecoins and public blockchains for settlement. The OCC also gave the green light for U.S. banks to hold stablecoin reserves for issuers.

What do you think about Anchorage’s national banking charter? Let us know in the comments section below.

Pakistan to Set up Two State-Owned Bitcoin Mining Farms to Help Boost Economy

Pakistan to Set up Two State-Owned Bitcoin Mining Farms to Help Boost Economy

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the third largest of Pakistan’s four semi-autonomous provinces, is setting up two state-backed bitcoin mining farms, local media reported last week.

Ziaullah Bangash, advisor to the chief minister of KP on Science and Information Technology, said the provincial parliament passed a bill allowing the KP government to use its own money to establish the mining facilities.

The province, which has since legalized crypto mining, will be mining bitcoin (BTC) for profit, BOL News, a local media organization, reported. No details were given about the capacity of the mining farms nor the funds that the state intends to invest in the project. This particular province has previously advocated friendly crypto laws in Pakistan.

According to Bangash, the KP Assembly also passed a separate no-objection certificate allowing individuals to mine cryptocurrency and issue their own digital assets. The development coincided with the launch of a private bitcoin mining farm by Waqar Zaka, a long-time crypto enthusiast who has worked to develop the Pakistani crypto industry.

“After years of struggle, I am launching the biggest crypto mining farm in KPK where you all can invest & earn,” Zaka said in a tweet. He thanked Bangash for his legal backing. Replying, Bangash stated that “in future, the help of Waqar Zaka will be sought” in the KP administration’s crypto mining plans.

Profits from bitcoin mining may help prop-up Pakistan’s ailing economy, but KP must first overcome the country’s long-running electricity crisis. Pakistan is facing severe electricity shortages, with power cuts a common occurrence.

Last Saturday, the entire country was thrown into darkness, the Financial Times reports. Authorities blamed the blackouts on a “technical fault” at one of the country’s main power plants in the south. Pakistan only started to restore power in bits on Sunday.

Now BTC mining — the process by which new bitcoins are created using sophisticated, super-computers — is not only an energy-intensive venture but also one that demands consistent power supply. Situated in north-western Pakistan, a mountainous, cool region along the border with Afghanistan, KP might have the best weather for bitcoin mining. But will it have enough energy to sustain a profitable operation?

What do you think about the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s bitcoin mining plans? Let us know in the comments section below.

Crypto Industry’s Favorite Messaging App Telegram Surpasses 500 Million Active Users

Crypto Industry's Favorite Messaging App Telegram Surpasses 500 Million Active Users

Telegram, a popular messaging app within the cryptocurrency space, surpassed 500 million monthly active users during the first week of January, according to Telegram chief executive officer Pavel Durov.

In the last 72 hours, said Durov, the app has seen a massive surge in new users, with an additional 25 million people signing up to use the platform. These new users are coming from all around the world, with the majority – 38% – drawn from Asia.

Some 27% are coming from Europe, 21% from Latin America, and 8% from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena region). Around 200 million people used Telegram in 2018, meaning user growth has exceeded 150% over two years.

Telegram may have benefited from changes to the privacy policy at rival Whatsapp. Recent updates to Whatsapp’s privacy policy require that users share their personal information with parent firm Facebook or stop using the service altogether.

These changes are believed to have prompted users uncomfortable with sharing more of their personal data with Facebook to leave Whatsapp, and join privacy-centric competitors such as Telegram or Signal.

Unlike other competing messaging apps, Telegram does not share personal data and offers encrypted chats.

Posting on his personal Telegram channel on Jan. 12, Durov said:

People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services. They no longer want to be held hostage by tech monopolies that seem to think they can get away with anything as long as their apps have a critical mass of users.

The Telegram CEO added that “with half a billion active users and accelerating growth, Telegram has become the largest refuge for those seeking a communication platform committed to privacy and security.”

In 2020, Telegram reported new user sign-ups of 1.5 million each day, a far cry from the current influx of people joining the platform. “We’ve had surges of downloads before, throughout our 7-year history of protecting user privacy. But this time is different,” noted Durov.

Until now, all services on Telegram have remained free. However, Durov announced in December that some services may now be monetized. He said additional functions will appear for “business teams and users with advanced needs” and those features will be paid because they are “resource-intensive”. Ordinary users will continue to use Telegram for free, he emphasized.

Telegram attempted to launch its own cryptocurrency called Gram, through the TON blockchain platform, but was blocked by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That left Pavel Durov, who had raised $1.7 billion from select investors for the project, saddled with a debt of $1.2 billion and $18.5 million in penalties.

Now some investors in TON are preparing a lawsuit against Durov to try and force the businessman “to sell part of Telegram or the entire company and pay off the investors, because he spent money on Telegram,” according to a Forbes report. Durov allegedly spent $500 million of the TON money to upgrade Telegram, something investors claim was not part of the original deal.

What do you think about the influx of new users at Telegram? Let us know in the comments section below.

Crypto Futures Exchange Bakkt Going Public at a Valuation of $2.1 Billion

Bitcoin futures exchange Bakkt is going public via a merger with VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) created for taking startup firms public.

Both companies have now confirmed the transaction, and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under a new name – Bakkt Holdings Inc., – sometime in the second quarter of 2021. Rumours about the deal have swelled since early January.

After the merger, Bakkt is expected to have an enterprise value of $2.1 billion, the company announced on Jan. 11. Bakkt was founded by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owners of the NYSE, in 2018 as an institutional crypto trading platform. But the exchange has faced stiff competition from market leaders such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

According to the announcement, the exchange will also raise an additional $582 million through a private placement, leveraging existing cash at VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings and contributions from ICE.

The money is expected to bankroll Bakkt’s pivot to developing consumer applications for digital assets. Bakkt is expanding its business model, with a new app that allows users to manage crypto assets, including bitcoin (BTC), along with reward and loyalty points, intended for launch in March.

Bakkt said that more than 400,000 customers have pre-registered for the app. The exchange, which supports over 30 loyalty program sponsors and 200 gift card merchants, is targeting 30 million users over the next five years. Starbucks has already integrated Bakkt Cash as a payment method for its clients.

In its statement, Bakkt detailed that it aims to “enable incremental consumer spending, reduce traditional payment costs and bolster loyalty programs, adding value for all key stakeholders within the payments and digital assets ecosystem.”

Bakkt’s announcement comes on the heels of U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase’s filing of a draft registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an initial public offering (IPO).

Through the SPAC, the so-called blank-check firms that allow other companies to go public through them, Bakkt has avoided the often lengthy process associated with IPOs – roadshows, issuing of prospectus, selling shares to investors etc.

What do you think about Bakkt going public? Let us know in the comments section below.

Two New York City Bars up for Sale for a Total 25 Bitcoins

Two New York City Bars up for Sale for a Total 25 Bitcoins

Two New York City bars are up for sale for a combined 25 bitcoins or 800 ether – over $800k at current prices. Bar owner Patrick Hughes has seen the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown on his operations and decided to sell the two watering holes for crypto.

● “Crypto is on fire, it’s a hot currency,” Hughes told the New York Post on Jan. 9. “It’s decentralized. It’s global.” The 56-year-old Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, resident’s decision may have been motivated by bitcoin’s recent bullish run – and also the need to preserve value against a falling dollar.

● Hughes is selling his side-by-side Hell’s Kitchen outfits, Hellcat Annie’s and Scruffy Duffy’s, both located on Tenth Avenue for crypto only, said the report. The man’s family has been in the Manhattan bar business since 1970, it added, though these two bars were opened later.

● “I’m hoping to catch one of these crypto dudes who always wanted to own a bar,” said Hughes. He’s put up a bitcoin (BTC) sale sign in front of the bars, but inquiries have been mostly casual. The bar owner remains upbeat a serious buyer will come along.

● Prior to the pandemic, Hughes had up to 50 people employed at his two establishments, but that is now down to just “five or six” people. His businesses largely remained closed for most of 2020, as per the report. Hellcat Annie’s reopened in November but Scruffy Duffy’s remains closed.

● More people are starting to see the monetary value of bitcoin. In September last year, U.S. aircraft sales company Aviatrade Inc., said it would accept BTC as a means of payment for its luxury jets. The first plane to go on sale for crypto was a six-year-old Gulfstream G650ER, which was selling for $40 million or the bitcoin equivalent.

What do you think about the two New York bars being sold for bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.