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Reuters

Exclusive: Huawei hid business operation in Iran after Reuters reported links to CFO

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LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies acted to cover up its relationship with a firm that had tried to sell prohibited U.S. computer gear to Iran, after Reuters in 2013 reported deep links between the firm and the telecom-equipment giant’s chief financial officer, newly obtained internal Huawei documents show.

FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo

Huawei has long described the firm – Skycom Tech Co Ltd – as a separate local business partner in Iran. Now, documents obtained by Reuters show how the Chinese tech titan effectively controlled Skycom. The documents, reported here for the first time, are part of a trove of internal Huawei and Skycom Iran-related business records – including memos, letters and contractual agreements – that Reuters has reviewed.

One document described how Huawei scrambled in early 2013 to try to “separate” itself from Skycom out of concern over trade sanctions on Tehran. To that end, this and other documents show, Huawei took a series of actions – including changing the managers of Skycom, shutting down Skycom’s Tehran office and forming another business in Iran to take over tens of millions of dollars worth of Skycom contracts.

The revelations in the new documents could buttress a high-profile criminal case being pursued by U.S. authorities against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder. The United States has been trying to get Meng extradited from Canada, where she was arrested in December 2018. A Canadian judge last week allowed the case to continue, rejecting defense arguments that the U.S. charges against Meng do not constitute crimes in Canada.

A U.S. indictment alleges that Huawei and Meng participated in a fraudulent scheme to obtain prohibited U.S. goods and technology for Huawei’s Iran-based business via Skycom, and move money out of Iran by deceiving a major bank. The indictment alleges that Skycom was an “unofficial subsidiary” of Huawei, not a local partner.

Huawei and Meng have denied the criminal charges, which include bank fraud, wire fraud and other allegations. Skycom, which was registered in Hong Kong and was dissolved in 2017, is also a defendant. At one point, Huawei was a shareholder in Skycom but, according to corporate filings, sold its stake more than a decade ago.

The newly obtained documents appear to undermine Huawei’s claims that Skycom was just a business partner. They offer a behind-the-scenes look at some of what transpired at the two companies inside Iran seven years ago and how intertwined the companies were. The documents are variously written in English, Chinese and Farsi.

Huawei declined to comment for this story.

China’s foreign ministry said the United States was politicizing economic and trade issues, which is not in the interest of Chinese or American firms. “We urge the United States to immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese firms including Huawei,” it said. It referred specific questions about this story to Huawei.

‘NORMAL BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP’

Reuters reported in March that Huawei had produced internal company records in 2010, including two packing lists, that showed it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran. Huawei declined to comment on that story, citing ongoing legal proceedings.

(To read the March report, click here)

The newly obtained documents show that Huawei’s efforts to obscure its relationship with Skycom began after Reuters reported in December 2012 that Skycom had offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator in late 2010. In January 2013, a second Reuters report described how Huawei had close financial ties and other links to Skycom, including the fact that Meng had served on Skycom’s board of directors between February 2008 and April 2009.

(To read the December 2012 report, click here)

(To read the January 2013 report, click here)

In its response at the time to the Reuters reporting, Huawei said Skycom was one of its “major local partners” and that the relationship between Huawei and Skycom was “a normal business partnership.”

But a newly obtained Huawei internal document from the Chinese company’s Iran office, dated March 28, 2013, indicates Huawei controlled Skycom. The document in Chinese stated: “In consideration of trade compliances, A2 representative office is trying to separate Skycom and Huawei.” A2 was Huawei’s code for Iran, according to the U.S. indictment.

The document also noted that Huawei had installed one of its own employees to manage Skycom in Iran “to urgently avoid the risks of media hype.” Huawei had made an “urgent decision” to appoint Hu Mei as Skycom’s general manager in Iran, effective March 10, 2013, the document noted. Hu was a director of Skycom and was also listed as a Huawei employee in an internal Huawei directory.

The document detailed how Huawei quickly recognized a flaw in putting Hu in charge of Skycom. Hu was based at Huawei’s headquarters in China, and the job required dealing with business matters on the ground in Iran, the document stated. So, Huawei decided to appoint instead “a Chinese employee based in Iran” to manage Skycom’s Tehran office, the document shows.

Huawei decided to name Song Kai, deputy representative of its Iran office, to run Skycom in Iran. He was informed of the decision in an internal Huawei message that was reviewed by Reuters. “Please update your resume,” Song was instructed.

The message said that the change had been approved by a man named Lan Yun, who was identified as the “chief representative” of Huawei’s Iran office.

Hu, Song and Lan couldn’t be reached for comment.

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION

In response to the Reuters articles of 2012 and 2013, several Western banks questioned Huawei about its relationship with Skycom. They included HSBC Holdings PLC, where both Huawei and Skycom held bank accounts.

HSBC declined to comment for this story.

In August 2013, Meng met with HSBC’s deputy head of global banking for the Asia-Pacific region. She is accused in the U.S. indictment of making “numerous misrepresentations regarding Huawei’s ownership and control of Skycom.”

Meng gave a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting that said Skycom was merely “a business partner of Huawei.”

The newly obtained documents show that Huawei soon became directly involved in shutting Skycom down.

In a letter dated Nov. 2, 2013, Song, the Huawei employee appointed to manage Skycom, told a major Iranian client that Skycom “has decided to annul and terminate its business activities and dissolve the branch company in Iran.” Song’s letter was addressed to a vice president of Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, Mobile Communication Co of Iran, or MCCI.

Slideshow (3 Images)

MCCI couldn’t be reached for comment.

The next day, Skycom, MCCI and a new Huawei company – Huawei Technologies Service (Iranian) Co Ltd – signed an agreement. It stated that Skycom planned to transfer its contracts to the new Huawei entity. The agreement listed eight contracts worth a total of 44.6 million euros (about $50 million), with about 34.6 million euros remaining on them. Any money owed to Skycom was to be paid to the Huawei entity upon completion of the contracts.

“All the parties promise that this three-way contract remains confidential,” it stated.

Reported by Steve Stecklow in London and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Dubai. Additional reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Karen Freifeld in New York. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/SAeTO0-4v-c/exclusive-huawei-hid-business-operation-in-iran-after-reuters-reported-links-to-cfo-idUSKBN23A19B

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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