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Coinbase rival Kraken may go public via direct listing

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Jesse Powell, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, sits for a photograph at the company’s San Francisco office in 2014.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken is considering going public through a direct listing in 2022, after seeing record trading volumes and new clients amid a surge in the price of bitcoin.

Founded in 2011, Kraken is one the world’s biggest crypto exchanges. It has more than 6 million clients and is the fourth-largest exchange by trading volume, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Jesse Powell, Kraken’s CEO and co-founder, said in an interview that the firm had benefited significantly from the bitcoin rally. Bitcoin hit a record high price of over $60,000 mid-March, with traders attributing the move to institutional investors jumping into the market.

“For us, any volatility is good but it’s always better when it’s on the way up,” Powell told CNBC. “The first quarter just completely blew away the entirety of last year. We beat last year’s numbers by the end of February. The whole market has really just exploded.”

Kraken saw four times as many new users sign up to its platform in the first quarter of this year than it did in the second half of 2020. Spot trading volumes in the first quarter were 1.5 times higher than in all of last year, reaching a record level of $160 billion.

Coinbase listing

Coinbase, Kraken’s main rival in the U.S., posted record quarterly revenue of $1.8 billion in the first quarter, which is more than it made for the whole of 2020. The company is set to go public in a blockbuster direct listing next week which could value it at as much as $100 billion.

Kraken is also weighing a stock market debut for 2022, Powell said.

“We’re looking at being able to go public sometime next year,” he said. “It would probably be a direct listing, similar to Coinbase.”

Direct listings — which see firms list without issuing any new shares — have become a popular route among valuable tech companies looking to go public through an alternative to initial public offerings. IPOs have long faced criticism from tech investors for mispricing shares, resulting in issuing companies sometimes leaving piles of cash on the table.

Kraken is currently in talks with investors for a new round of funding, which could reportedly value it at as much as $20 billion.

“We have been in some talks to do another round,” Powell said. “We’ve kind of been delaying a bit to see where the Coinbase valuation comes in at. I suspect that the price is gonna pump much higher than it has been trading at.”

“We’re not in a rush to raise capital,” he said, adding the firm has a strong balance sheet. “The reason to do it would just be to bring on some more strategic investors who can help us with geographic expansion and growth.”

NFT boom

Powell said the rise of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, led to frenzied interest in alternative digital coins, such as ether. NFTs are a type of digital asset that represent ownership of unique collector’s items, and they’ve exploded in popularity this year.

Ether, the digital currency of the Ethereum blockchain, notched a fresh all-time high of more than $2,100 on Tuesday, helping to lift the market value of all cryptocurrencies above $2 trillion for the first time.

“Ethereum is a big part of this,” Powell said. “A lot of NFTs are created on Ethereum, a lot of these platforms operate on Ethereum.”

Kraken’s boss added that people are also turning to other digital currencies like flow and filecoin, as ether transaction fees spike due to the level of congestion on the Ethereum network. Ethereum is undergoing an ambitious upgrade aimed at making it faster and more secure.

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Uber and Just Eat Takeaway CEOs spar as European food delivery battle heats up

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Uber Eats delivery

Jonathan Raa | NurPhoto via Getty Images

LONDON — The CEOs of Uber and Just Eat Takeaway on Wednesday became engaged in a public spat after Uber announced it is planning to launch in Germany — a market that is currently dominated by Just Eat Takeaway.

Uber Eats will launch in Berlin in the next few weeks and potentially expand into other German cities in the coming months. The news was first reported by The Financial Times and confirmed to CNBC.

Just Eat Takeaway CEO Jitse Groen accused Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi of trying to “depress” his firm’s share price on Twitter on Wednesday. Shares of Just Eat Takeaway closed down almost 3%.

Khosrowshahi responded: “Advice: pay a little less attention to your short term stock price and more attention to your Tech and Ops.”

Shortly thereafter, Groen replied: “If I may … start paying taxes, minimum wage and social security premiums before giving a founder advice on how he should run his business.”

Uber operates its ride-hailing service in 13 cities across Germany but the company has never launched Uber Eats in what it views as a strategically important market. 

A spokesperson for Uber told CNBC: “As part of our ongoing investment in Germany, we’re excited to be launching Uber Eats to unlock the full potential of Uber’s mobility and delivery platform.”

“Based on feedback from restaurants and communities, we believe there is strong demand for more food delivery services and a more competitive market. We look forward to helping consumers, restaurants and workers access the benefits of the Uber Eats marketplace very soon.”

In Europe, Uber Eats is currently available in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland. Approximately 24 million people used the app to order food from around 126,000 restaurants in Europe last year, as lockdowns resulted in more people ordering takeaways.

“Europe in particular has been a bright spot for (Eats), both in terms of some of the growth we’ve seen, but also, frankly, in terms of the strengthening of our market position,” Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s senior vice president of delivery, reportedly told The Financial Times.

He added that Just Eat Takeaway is effectively “dominating” the German market despite its “extraordinarily high” commission rates, according to the report. “That translates into consumers and merchants actually being quite desperate for additional options,” he said.

Uber Eats takes a commission of up to 30% on each order, depending on the services that it provides.

Uber Eats hasn’t gone down well everywhere it’s been launched. The service was pulled from India last year and South Korea in 2019. Operations have also shut down or sold in parts of eastern Europe, South America and Africa.

Uber, which is hoping to reach profitability for the first time this year, said its food delivery couriers in Germany will be employed by fleet management companies that are contracted to Uber.

The company will pay the fleet management firms for each order they carry out and it’s up to them to decide how they pay their employees.

Competition in food delivery

Britain’s Just Eat and the Netherland’s Takeaway.com announced they were planning to merge in July 2019 as part of a £9 billion (dollar conversion) deal.

Others have tried and failed to go up against Just Eat Takeaway in Germany including U.K.-headquartered Deliveroo, which pulled out of Germany in 2019 to focus on other markets.

Last June, Just Eat Takeaway, one of the largest food delivery businesses in the world, announced plans to merge with Grubhub in the U.S. after Grubhub’s talks with Uber fell through.

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U.N. experts say life in danger, call for medical evacuation

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Moscow City Court | Reuters

WASHINGTON – United Nations human rights experts called for the immediate medical evacuation of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from Russia, citing concerns over his deteriorating health and prison conditions that they say may amount to torture.

“We believe Mr. Navalny’s life is in serious danger,” the group wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We are deeply troubled that Mr. Navalny is being kept in conditions that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in a facility that reportedly does not meet international standards,” the statement added.

“We urge the Russian authorities to ensure Mr. Navalny has access to his own doctors and to allow him to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment abroad, as they did in August 2020. We reiterate that the Russian Government is accountable for Mr. Navalny’s life and health while he is in detention,” the group added.

A Russian court in February sentenced Navalny to more than two years in jail for parole violations, charges he said were politically motivated. His detention came after spending nearly half a year in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that took place last August.

The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny’s poisoning. On the heels of his arrest and subsequent detention, the West called on the Kremlin for Navalny’s immediate release.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics in recent years, was transferred to a prison hospital on April 19, three weeks into a hunger strike protesting against his treatment in prison and denial of urgent medical treatment.

Russian authorities had previously said that they offered Navalny medical care but that he continued to refuse it. The prison had declined to allow a doctor of Navalny’s choice from outside of the facility to administer his treatment.

On Sunday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration warned the Russian government to not let Navalny die in custody.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“We have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies,” he added.

Confrontation over Navanly’s imprisonment and worsening health condition is the latest drumbeat in the already tense relations between Moscow and the West.

In an annual address on Wednesday, Putin warned countries of crossing Russia’s “red lines” as international pressure mounts over a massive military buildup on the border with Ukraine.

In March, the United States sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for the alleged poisoning and subsequent detention of Navalny. The sanctions were the first to target Moscow under U.S. President Joe Biden’s leadership. The Trump administration did not take action against Russia over the Navalny situation.

Last week, the Biden administration slapped Russia with another round of U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, sweeping cyberattacks and attempts to influence U.S. elections.

In an address announcing the new measures, Biden said he was prepared to take further actions against Moscow.

“If Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further actions to respond. It is my responsibility as president of the United States to do so,” Biden said from the White House.

Washington also expelled 10 officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.

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HSBC manager vows to change work-life balance following heart attack

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HSBC tower at Canary Wharf financial district in London, England

Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

After suffering a heart attack, a HSBC manager in the U.K. vowed to change his work-life balance in a post on LinkedIn, which has gone viral. 

Jonathan Frostick, a regulatory programme manager at HSBC, described in a LinkedIn post last week how he suffered a heart attack on a Sunday afternoon, when he sat down to prepare some work for the week ahead. 

But instead of seeing his life flash before his eyes, Frostick said that one of his first thoughts was that “I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this isn’t convenient.” 

Frostick said he had decided he wouldn’t spend “all day on Zoom anymore” and that he planned to restructure his approach to work. 

“I’m really not going to be putting up with any s— at work ever again — life literally is too short,” he said, alongside a picture from his hospital bed following the heart attack. 

Frostick also said he wanted “every day to count for something at work,” or he would change his role. 

The post has attracted more than 200,000 reactions on LinkedIn. 

Responding to some of the more than 10,500 comments on the post, Frostick said that he didn’t expect the message to “hit home” as it much as it did — “but I’m pleased as it has seemingly helped a lot of people.” 

A spokesperson for HSBC said: “We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery.” 

They said the firm recognized the importance of personal health, wellbeing and a good work-life balance and had redoubled its efforts in these areas over the last year. 

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority,” they added.

Check out: A 4-day work week might be edging closer — here’s why

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