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Cryptocurrency market to hit $1 trillion valuation in 2018: Kraken CEO

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The entire cryptocurrency market will reach a total value of $1 trillion this year, according to the chief executive of a top digital currency exchange.

Jesse Powell, founder and CEO of Kraken, said Tuesday that the cryptocurrency market would continue to see an “acceleration” of growth — despite a sharp pullback in recent weeks.

He told CNBC: “You’ve got a lot more kids graduating from crypto programs at universities now. I think we’re just going to see it continue exponentially from here.”

Asked whether he thought the market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies would hit the $1 trillion mark in 2018, Powell agreed.

The current market cap of all cryptocurrencies stands at around $417 billion, according to data from industry website CoinMarketCap. It hit an all-time high of more than $800 billion in early January, before falling dramatically as a result of a huge cryptocurrency sell-off.

Traders have been weary of regulatory signals recently as government ministers in South Korea and India have both upped their rhetoric against virtual currencies. On Monday, three top European Union regulators issued a warning to consumers about the risks associated with buying cryptocurrencies.

However, cryptocurrency enthusiasts seemed to be mostly positive about a hearing on cryptocurrencies held by the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee last week.

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Steel factory to be powered by ‘world’s largest green hydrogen plant’

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A Swedish firm backed by investors including Spotify founder Daniel Ek plans to build a steel production facility in the north of the country that will be powered by what it describes as “the world’s largest green hydrogen plant.”

H2 Green Steel, which was established in 2020, will focus on steel made using a “fossil-free manufacturing process” and look to supply European manufacturers with its end product.

In an announcement earlier this week the company — which will be headed up by Henrik Henriksson, the current CEO of Scania — said steel production would start in 2024 and be based in Sweden’s Norrbotten region. By 2030, the aim is for the business to have the capacity to produce 5 million tons of steel per year.

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our time,” Henriksson said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“And given … steel’s impact on other industries’ sustainable development, a rapid change of the steel industry is extremely important,” he added.

According to the International Energy Agency, the iron and steel sector is responsible for 2.6 gigatonnes of direct carbon dioxide emissions each year, a figure that, in 2019, was greater than direct emissions from sectors such as cement and chemicals.  

It adds that the steel sector is “the largest industrial consumer of coal, which provides around 75% of its energy demand.”

The size of H2 Green Steel’s hydrogen plant will be around 800 megawatts, with its end product replacing coal and coke in the steel manufacturing process. 

Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. One includes using electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used in the process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar then it’s termed “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.

The company’s biggest shareholder is investment firm Vargas, a co-founder of battery maker Northvolt. H2 Green Steel is currently wrapping up series A equity financing of 50 million euros (around $61.1 million). Investors include Scania, EIT InnoEnergy, and Spotify founder Daniel Ek.

For the initial phase of the project, total financing will come to roughly 2.5 billion euros. The firm’s financial advisors are Societe Generale, KfW IPEX-Bank and Morgan Stanley.

Steel production is one of many industrial processes ripe for improvement when it comes to emissions and other metrics related to sustainability.

Aluminum manufacturing is another. German automaker BMW recently said it had started to source and use aluminum that has been produced using solar energy, for example.

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$100 billion market cap is the blue sky scenario for Moderna: analyst

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Medical worker Robert Gilbertson loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

APU GOMES | AFP | Getty Images

Biotech and pharmaceutical company Moderna, a forerunner in the development of coronavirus vaccines, has the potential to reach a $100 billion-plus market capitalization, according to one analyst.

Asked what the blue-sky scenario could be for Moderna, whose coronavirus vaccine was found to be 94% effective at preventing serious Covid infection, and who is already working on a booster shot to tackle the variant that first emerged in South Africa, Hartaj Singh, managing director and senior analyst of biotechnology at Oppenheimer, told CNBC Thursday said that similar companies’ sales trajectories showed what Moderna could experience in future.

“What we do is point people to other companies in the biotech sector that have peaked or hit a valuation when they launched their first set of products. Companies as diverse as Alexion, Regeneron and Vertex, currently, and they essentially peaked at about ten times future sales, future sales being three to five years out.”

“I think with Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine franchise, and they’re also starting to develop flu vaccines which should hit the market in the next couple of years … you know, we could see a $10 billion franchise five to seven years from now. If you put a ten times sales multiple on that then, you can do the math, then it’s a $100 billion-plus market cap company,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe.” Its market value is currently just above $57 billion.

Moderna‘s shares rose 3% in premarket trade Thursday as its fourth-quarter revenue, of $571 million, vastly exceeded estimates of $318.9 million, and compared to $14 million for the fourth quarter of 2019.

It also forecast $18.4 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales in 2021, having brought in $199.87 million Covid-19 vaccine sales in the fourth quarter.  The company did, however, report a quarterly share loss of 69 cents, more than the 35 cent loss that analysts were anticipating.

In the earnings statement, CEO Stephane Bancel said 2020 was a historic year for Moderna and that 2021 would be an “inflection year” for the company.

“We previously believed that mRNA would lead to approved medicines, and we were limited in our ambitions by the need for regular capital raises and keeping several years of cash to manage financing risk. We now know that mRNA vaccines can be highly efficacious and authorized for use, and we are a cash-flow generating commercial company,’ he said.

“We plan to accelerate and significantly increase our investments in science and grow our development pipeline faster. By executing on our 2021 priorities, we will advance our mission of delivering on the promise of mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients. This is just the beginning,” he said.

Booster shot

The drugmaker announced Wednesday that it is set to begin trials of its new Covid-19 vaccine booster shot, designed to give better protection against a new variant of the virus first discovered in South Africa. The biotech firm said it had shipped doses of the shot to the U.S.’ National Institute of Health for testing.

Moderna’s current two-dose jab provokes a weaker immune response against the South African strain of the virus, found to be more infectious than other variants, though the company said antibodies in patients remain above levels that are expected to be protective against the virus.

“Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control,” Bancel said in a press release. “We hope to demonstrate that booster doses, if necessary, can be done at lower dose levels, which will allow us to provide many more doses to the global community in late 2021 and 2022 if necessary.”

Separately, the company also announced Wednesday that it expects to produce up to 700 million doses in 2021 and 1.4 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2022, on the assumption the vaccine will be administered at its current level of 100 micrograms.

If the vaccine is found to be effective at a lower dosage level, the company said it could supply up to 2.8 billion doses in 2022. Moderna has a deal with the U.S. government to supply 300 million doses. 

Disclaimer: Hartaj Singh does not have any holdings of Moderna’s stock.

– CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace contributed reporting to this story.

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Goldman Sachs CEO Solomon calls working from home an ‘aberration’

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David Solomon, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, April 29, 2019.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said that working from home was “not a new normal” for the investment banking giant, calling it an “aberration.” 

Speaking at Credit Suisse’s annual virtual financial services forum on Wednesday, Solomon said that the coronavirus pandemic had seen a “significant portion” of Goldman Sachs employees shifting to working remotely. 

However, he said that the firm had still managed to have an average of less than 10% of its staff working in its offices around the world. 

In New York, Solomon said Goldman had up to a quarter of its employees working onsite and had managed to get the same number back into its London offices last summer and in the fall, when U.K. public health restrictions had briefly eased. 

Goldman had brought over half of its staff back into its offices in Asia, Solomon said, but added that this fell again in the fall and winter months with a resurgence in coronavirus cases. 

“I do think for a business like ours which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” Solomon said. 

“It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible,” he added. 

Solomon said he was particularly focused on ensuring that the next cohort of young workers to join Goldman Sachs this coming summer didn’t start working at the firm remotely, as he believed they could miss out on “direct contact” and “direct mentorship.” 

He said he was a “big believer in personal connectivity” and so didn’t think for a business like Goldman, that its operating style would be vastly different post-pandemic. 

Solomon’s comments stand in sharp contrast to that of many big names in the technology space that have made the shift to working remotely a more permanent part of their operations. The latest example is music streaming service Spotify, which announced earlier this month it would be letting employees work from anywhere after the pandemic.

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