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Online payments startup Checkout.com triples valuation to $5.5 billion

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The logo for payments start-up Checkout.com.

Checkout.com

Online payments start-up Checkout.com has raised $150 million in funding at a $5.5 billion valuation — nearly three times what it was worth when it last raised cash.

Founded in 2012, the London-based company sells a software platform that makes it easier for businesses to process and take payments over the web. It competes with the likes of U.S. firm Stripe and Dutch processor Adyen.

Checkout.com mostly flew under the radar until 2019, when it tapped external investors for the first time to raise a $230 million Series A round. That deal —reportedly agreed over “handshakes” rather than term sheets — gave the firm the coveted status of “unicorn,” with a $2 billion valuation.

Since then, the company has achieved impressive growth, increasing transaction volumes by 250% over the last year and picking up big-name clients — from Singaporean ride-hailing app Grab to U.S. online brokerage Robinhood — along the way.

Checkout.com raised the fresh cash in a Series B round led by Coatue, a technology-focused hedge fund which has backed the likes of food delivery firm DoorDash and TikTok owner ByteDance. Existing investors Insight Partners, DST Global, Blossom Capital and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC also bought shares in the round.

It means Checkout.com is now tied with Swedish e-commerce lender Klarna and British digital bank Revolut as Europe’s most valuable fintech start-up. However, it’s still some way off catching up with privately-held Stripe, most recently valued at $36 billion, as well as publicly-listed Adyen, which has a $38 billion market cap.

Checkout.com said it would use the additional capital to shore up its balance sheet and invest in new products. The company made its first two acquisitions this year, snapping up French start-up ProcessOut and Australian firm Pin Payments.

“The way money moves into and out of businesses is changing rapidly,” Checkout.com CEO Guillaume Pousaz said in a statement. “I believe that by solving financial complexity, you can radically unlock innovation — starting with digital payments.”

Checkout.com claims to have been profitable since 2012. The firm posted a $2.3 million net profit on revenues of $74.8 million in 2018.

It now employs 750 people across 13 offices, marking a roughly 50% rise in headcount from the more-than-500 employees it had last year.

The company says it has got a boost in recent months from the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many businesses to move their operations online. Bain & Company estimates the adoption of digital payments could climb as much as 10 percentage points to 67% of transaction values globally by 2025.

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Iran will develop oil industry despite U.S. sanctions, Iranian oil minister says

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks on the fall in oil prices due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran on April 22, 2020.

Presidency Of Iran Handout | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iran is determined to develop its oil industry in spite of U.S. sanctions imposed on the country, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in a televised speech on Saturday.

“We will not surrender under any circumstances … We have to increase our capacity so that when necessary with full strength we can enter the market and revive our market share,” said Zanganeh.

The minister was speaking before the signing of a $294-million contract between the National Iranian Oil Company and Persia Oil & Gas, an Iranian firm, to develop the Yaran oilfield that is shared with neighboring Iraq’s Majnoon field.

The agreement aims to produce 39.5 million barrels of oil from the Yaran oilfield in Khuzestan province in  southwestern Iran, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s news agency SHANA said.

Hit by reimposed U.S. sanctions since Washington exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, Iran’s oil exports are estimated at 100,000 to 200,000 barrels per day, down from more than 2.5 million bpd that Iran shipped in April 2018.

The Islamic Republic’s crude production has halved to around 2 million bpd.

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Seoul mayor’s death prompts sympathy, questions of his acts in South Korea

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The sudden death of Seoul’s mayor, reportedly implicated in a sexual harassment complaint, has prompted an outpouring of public sympathy even as it has raised questions about a man who built his career as a reform-minded politician and self-described feminist.

Park Won-soon was found dead on a wooded hill in northern Seoul early Friday, about seven hours after his daughter reported to police he had left her a “will-like” verbal message and then left their home. Authorities launched a massive search for the 64-year-old Park before rescue dogs found his body.

Police said there was no sign of foul play at the site though they refused to disclose the cause of death. On Friday morning, Seoul officials said they were releasing what they called Park’s “will” found at his residence at the request of his family.

“I feel sorry to everyone. I thank everyone who has been with me in my life,” the note shown on TV said. It continued with a request that his remains be cremated and scattered around his parents’ graves.

Park was a huge figure in South Korean politics. As a former human rights lawyer, he led two of South Korea‘s most influential civic groups and was mayor of Seoul, the South Korean capital city with 10 million people, since 2011. He was widely considered a leading liberal candidate for president when his political ally and current President Moon Jae-in‘s single five-year term ends in 2022.

His death shocked many.

People pay tribute at a memorial altar as they make a call of condolence in honor of the deceased Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at the Seoul City Hall on July 11, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. Seoul Mayor and presidential hopeful Park Won-soon was found dead at a Seoul mountain on Friday, hours after his family reported him missing, police said.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images

His supporters wailed and shouted slogans like “We love you” and “We are sorry” when his body arrived at a Seoul hospital. His name was the most popular search word on main internet portal sites, and condolence messages flooded social media. On one TV program Friday morning, a panelist choked up and couldn’t continue talking about Park.

“I really respected him … I hope he can realize all his dreams in heaven,” Kim Young-hyun, a small business owner, said near Seoul City Hall.

But anti-Park sentiment also erupted amid media reports that one of his female secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment over an extend period. Police only confirmed that a complaint against Park had been filed but cited privacy issues in refusing to elaborate, including about whether the complaint was about sexual behavior.

The Associated Press made numerous calls to police, who declined to provide more details about the complaint.

Some critics questioned the image of a man who had portrayed himself as “a feminist mayor” dedicated to gender equality and a vocal supporter of the “#MeToo” movement.

During his days as a human rights lawyer, Park won South Korea’s first sexual harassment conviction in 1998, following a yearslong legal battle in which he represented a Seoul National University research assistant who accused a professor of making sexual advances and firing her after she rejected them. As mayor, he appointed a special adviser on gender equality issues and introduced policies aimed at designing safer urban environments for women and providing affordable housing for working single women.

“I think Park did something wrong. It’s also regrettable for anyone in public service to be embroiled in such an allegation regardless of whether it’s true or not,” said Lee Ji-hye, a resident near Seoul. “As a former human rights lawyer, he was accused of doing something bad but we cannot directly ask him about his position because he’s gone now. That’s very disappointing, too.”

Professor Yi Han Sang at Korea University criticized the Seoul city government for planning to establish a public mourning area near its building and use official funds for Park’s funeral next week. He said the city government must stop acts that could lead to public criticism of the alleged victim and focus on thinking about how to protect her and find the truth about the allegation.

A stream of Park’s fellow politicians affiliated with the governing Democratic Party and senior presidential officials visited a private mourning site at Seoul National University Hospital. Media photos showed sympathy flowers bearing President Moon Jae-in’s name placed there. Presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min told reporters at the hospital that Moon called Park’s death “very shocking,” Yonhap news agency reported.

When Lee Hae-chan, the Democratic Party chief, confronted journalists there, one asked him how the harassment allegations should be handled. Lee scolded the journalist for asking a “rude” question that he said shouldn’t be raised in that place.

There are worries that the public mourning for Park could lead to criticism of the alleged victim, whose identify is largely unknown. Ryu Ho-jeong of the small liberal opposition Justice Party wrote on Facebook that she won’t pay respects to Park, saying she doesn’t want the alleged victim to “feel lonely.” Her message drew both strong support and opposition online.

Though women’s rights have gradually improved in recent years, South Korea largely remains a male-centered society. The #MeToo movement that began in 2018 in South Korea successfully targeted many male celebrities, but the women who raised allegations sometimes faced strong online attacks and other backlash from supporters of the alleged abusers.

The most prominent South Korean man caught in the #MeToo movement was South Chungcheong Province Gov. Ahn Hee-jung, a liberal who is now serving a prison term of three and a half years for raping his former secretary. Earlier this year, Oh Keo-don, the former mayor of Busan, the country’s second-largest city, stepped down after a female public servant accused him of sexually assaulting her in his office.

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President Donald Trump commutes ally Roger Stone’s prison sentence

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President Donald Trump commutes ally Roger Stone’s prison sentence