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Reuters

Britain will not walk away from Hong Kong, Johnson says

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Britain will not walk away from the people of Hong Kong if China imposes a national security law that would conflict with its international obligations under a 1984 accord, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Anti-government demonstrators take part in a protest during a lunch time in Central, as a second reading of a controversial national anthem law takes place in Hong Kong, China May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Johnson’s remarks followed a warning to China on Tuesday to step back from the brink over the national security legislation for Hong Kong, saying it risked destroying one of the jewels of Asia’s economy while ruining the reputation of China.

“Hong Kong succeeds because its people are free,” Johnson wrote in the Times. “If China proceeds, this would be in direct conflict with its obligations under the joint declaration, a legally binding treaty registered with the United Nations.”

China’s parliament approved last week a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.

Mainland security and intelligence agents may, for the first time, be stationed in the city, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The plan for the legislation follows months of often violent pro-democracy protests in last year that plunged Hong Kong into its biggest crisis since the handover.

“Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life — which China pledged to uphold — is under threat,” Johnson said.

“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.”

Johnson repeated Britain’s pledge to give British National Overseas passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.

There are about 350,000 holders of BNO passports in Hong Kong and another 2.5 million are eligible for them, Johnson said.

China’s decision to impose the national security law on Hong Kong would “curtail its freedoms and dramatically erode its autonomy”, Johnson wrote in a commentary for the South China Morning Post bit.ly/3gGrNC6 newspaper.

“Since the handover in 1997, the key has been the precious concept of ‘one country, two systems’, enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and underpinned by the Joint Declaration signed by Britain and China,” Johnson wrote.

The Basic law is Hong Kong’s mini constitution while the 1984 declaration set out the arrangements for Hong Kong’s return to China.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the security legislation, not yet drafted but expected to be implemented by September, would not affect the city’s high degree of autonomy including its common-law, independent legal system.

‘IRRESPONSIBLE’

China said its decisions on national security in Hong Kong were its own affair and Britain’s connection to the territory stemmed from “aggressive colonisation and unequal treaties”.

“The UK’s irresponsible remarks and accusations … have grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs including Hong Kong affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. “We advise the UK side to step back from the brink.”

“The UK said the legislation is authoritarian, but this word is the exact characterization of the UK’s former rule over HK,” the spokesman said.

Johnson’s comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to Beijing’s plan to impose the security legislation, ordered his administration to begin the process of eliminating special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish China.

A survey of U.S. businesses revealed deep fears for the future of their operations in Hong Kong, with 30% of respondents “moderately” concerned and 53.3% “very concerned” about it.

The survey, on June 1-2 for the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), drew responses from 180, or 15%, of its members.

About 60% thought the legislation would harm their business operations, while a third said they were considering moving capital, assets or operations out of the semi-autonomous city, with 38% personally considering moving out.

Contributing to simmering anti-government tension, Hong Kong lawmakers are set to resume debate on a bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, following scuffles in the legislature in recent weeks.

ANNIVERSARY

Separately, Hong Kong activists plan to rally to mark the June 4, 1989, anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire on pro-democracy students in and around Tiananmen Square, even though for the first time, an annual vigil for the anniversary has been cancelled over coronavirus concerns.

Demonstrations are also planned for the June 9 anniversary of last year’s million-strong march against a now-withdrawn bill to allow for the extradition of offenders to mainland China, and protests three days later that police tackled with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The turmoil has raised questions about Hong Kong’s role as a financial hub.

HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) is among companies that have faced pressure to support the security law, with former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying criticising the bank for not making clear its stance.

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree, Donny Kwok, Marius Zaharia and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Writing by Clarence Fernandez; Editing by Stephen Coates and Rob Birsel

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/d78LA1qnXiU/britain-will-not-walk-away-from-hong-kong-johnson-says-idUSKBN23A091

Blockchain

India to have a ‘window’ for Bitcoin, says minister amid crypto ban FUD

The Ministry of Finance of India continues to form a careful position on private cryptocurrencies.

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The minister of finance of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a ray of hope for the Indian cryptocurrency community as more fear, uncertainty and doubt circulate regarding a supposedly impending ban on digital assets. 

In a Saturday interview with India Today, Sitharaman emphasized that the ministry does not plan to shut off Indian innovations associated with Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology.

“From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options off. We will allow certain windows for people use, so that experiments on the blockchain, Bitcoins or cryptocurrency […] and fintech, which depend on such experiments, will have that window available for them. We are not going to shut it off,” she said.

Sitharaman said that the ministry is finalizing a cabinet note on crypto as India continues formulating its official stance on the asset class. “It is nearing completion, and then it will be taken to the cabinet. The Supreme Court had commented on cryptocurrency. We are very clear that the Reserve Bank of India will take a call on an official cryptocurrency,” she said.

After India’s supreme court lifted a crypto banking ban one year ago, reports of a new ban started circulating in early 2021. In February, another anonymous Indian official claimed that the government was about to introduce a complete ban on crypto, giving investors up to six months to liquidate their holdings.

On Sunday, Reuters published a report citing an anonymous senior government official who claimed that India is preparing to enforce a blanket ban on crypto and impose major penalties on rule-breakers. As part of an alleged bill, India is planning to criminalize “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets,” the source claimed.

Despite reports of a ban from anonymous sources continuing to surface, Sitharaman said in early March that the ministry wants to form a “calibrated” stance on digital assets. 

Nischal Shetty, founder of local crypto exchange WazirX, seemed optimistic about Sitharaman’s comments in a tweet, stating that it is time for the Indian crypto community to build. 

The RBI and the Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

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Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/india-to-have-a-window-for-bitcoin-says-minister-amid-crypto-ban-fud

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Reuters

Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The blank check firm co-founded by one of the most prominent U.S. financial technology investment bankers will broaden its search for merger partners to companies worth up to $10 billion after pricing a larger initial public offering (IPO).

Steve McLaughlin started FT Partners in 2001 and since then, the fintech-focused investment bank has worked on mergers and acquisitions and public and private fundraising for the likes of BlackRock Inc, StoneCo Ltd and GreenSky Inc.

An alumnus of Goldman Sachs, McLaughlin and FT Partners have also been involved in advising a half-dozen firms in mergers with so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), most recently mobile bank MoneyLion’s $2.9 billion combination with Fusion Acquisition Corp.

Alongside Gene Yoon, founder of technology-focused investment firm Bregal Sagemount, McLaughlin is now sponsoring his own SPAC. Independence Holdings Corp. priced a $435 million IPO on Monday, having increased the number of units sold due to investor demand.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds from investors to take a private company public.

Pulling in extra cash and fully exercising the greenshoe, a share allotment potentially sold in the days after an IPO prices, McLaughlin told Reuters on Tuesday, will allow Independence to target larger fintech companies, beyond the $5 billion maximum size previously considered.

He added a deal involving a company that processes payments between businesses, or one providing financial management services, would be likely for Independence.

“We provide an incredibly attractive option for a company as we’ve successfully taken many companies through this complex process, so we can give comfort to founders and investors along the way,” McLaughlin said.

Despite heightened investor interest in cryptocurrencies, McLaughlin said Independence wouldn’t be investing in a firm in that industry because most businesses are still too early in their development.

He added it was highly unlikely that Independence would end up merging with a client of his investment bank.

Source: Reuters – Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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Reuters

Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC – source

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(Reuters) – Former Walt Disney Co executives Kevin Mayer and Thomas Staggs plan to raise $300 million in an initial public offering for a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The duo’s first SPAC, Forest Road Acquisition Corp, agreed a three-way merger last week with fitness companies Beachbody LLC and Myx Fitness LLC that was valued at around $2.9 billion.

Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is also on the board of directors at pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc, and Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, are working for Forest Road II as a strategic advisor and a director, respectively, the source said.

Mayer and Staggs will serve as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the new SPAC, the source said. They had worked with the first Forest Road SPAC as a strategic advisor and director, respectively.

The source requested anonymity ahead of a regulatory disclosure on the SPAC IPO.

Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he left the media giant last year to become the chief executive of popular video app TikTok. He departed the company three months after joining. Staggs worked at Disney for 26 years and held various roles including chief operating officer.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to take a private company public. They have gained immense popularity since last year, as they allow companies to go public by eschewing traditional IPOs.

A string of high-profile SPACs have been raised in the last 12 months, including by financial investors William Ackman and Barry Sternlicht, former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Source: Reuters – Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC-source

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Reuters

Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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(Reuters) – Companies raised $546 billion from new bond and share issues in January, as a flood of central bank money-printing and recovering stock markets brought record numbers of new listings, SPAC deals and share sales, Refinitiv data showed on Wednesday.

The numbers included $106.15 billion in initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs and secondary offerings, with the amount of money raised by SPACs alone soaring 20 times to $24.26 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Companies also raised nearly $439.9 billion in corporate debt in January, a 5% fall since the same period last year, but still the second largest January in 25 years.

A SPAC, a shell company that raises money in an IPO before later merging with a privately held company to take the latter public, has become many investors structure of choice over the past year.

January’s haul was already 30% of a total $79 billion raised by SPACs in the whole of 2020.

Traditional IPO volumes in the United States, however, remained higher than SPACs in January, hitting a 25-year high of $33.9 billion.

Some 47% new bond and share issues were U.S. offerings in January this year, with China second with $23.96 billion.

Nasdaq was the clear winner among exchanges, with 167 issues raising $41.12 billion, followed by the New York Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Exchange a close third, with both raking in a little more than $18 billion respectively.

That was in stark contrast to European financial hubs London and Frankfurt, which raised $4.29 billion and $1.72 billion respectively.

Chinese online video company Kuaishou Technology is the biggest IPO globally so far this year, raising $5.42 billion in Hong Kong, followed by Polish parcel locker business InPost SA which raised $3.40 billion in Amsterdam.

Source: Reuters – Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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